Successful advertising executive Nick Marshall is known for his playboy status… as well as being an absent dad to his teenage daughter, Alex. When a promotion he is expected is given to a woman instead, Nick is determined to charm and then undermine her until the job is his. While testing out women-targeted promotional items, Nick accidentally electrocutes himself. When he wakes up, he finds he can hear what women are thinking and soon uses this to his advantage, both personally and professionally.
I really do like Nancy Meyers a lot, but I think her more recent films (The Holiday, Something’s Gotta Give) are far superior to What Women Want. This movie was her second directing job, after The Parent Trap in 1998, so I didn’t really see a lot of the sharper, witty touches of Meyers’ talent on display here that I do in her later filmography. This is Mel Gibson’s film, through and through, and you can tell.
What Women Want is a pretty run-of-the-mill romantic comedy. It’s definitely more comedy than romance, as it depends heavily on Mel Gibson’s performance as advertising exec, Nick Marshall, to carry it. This is pre-antisemitic meltdown Mel Gibson, where he was still able to play charming and sympathetic, even when his character was an asshole. Admittedly, he is pretty good in this movie and that’s likely a big part of why it was so successful. As Nick, Gibson is able to make you cringe with his overt sexism, while also appreciating his development as a man and father by the end of the movie.
Helen Hunt plays Darcy Maguire, his new boss who is trying to prove herself in a business almost predominately ruled by men. While she seems put together on the outside, we get glimpses into her insecurities and fear of speaking up when Nick reads her mind… and steals her ideas. I found Darcy to be a rather intriguing female character but unfortunately, the movie really doesn’t focus much on her beyond her being the catalyst for Nick to change who he is (along with his daughter, Alex). It’s because of this that the romantic aspect of this rom-com disappoints.
That being said, What Women Want is lighthearted fluff that is still entertaining to watch, even if it doesn’t really make the most of its premise.