We are barely comfortable hearing our own thoughts, so how Nick Marshall (Mel Gibson) handles hearing the thoughts of every woman around him is beyond us audience members. But there is an impassable, fascinatingly strange sentiment to What Women Want that, inevitably, settles on the mind rather uncomfortably these days. His cocky charisma is unwarranted and odd, but the main crux of this feature from Nancy Meyers. In Meyers we trust. If she wishes for us to put our faith into Gibson as what a whole gender wishes to be infatuated with, then who are we to disagree? What Women Want is disastrously interesting, its inherent charm is the inevitable change that will occur, but whether that change is redeeming or not is not on the mind of Gibson, Meyers or anyone else.
When Gibson’s behind is compared to that of John Shaft, we can only relinquish our desire to take up arms against What Women Want. It is such a light project, one that has an impressionable effect on a mind overtaken by sleep deprivation. But What Women Want is that perfect late-night treat. A snack for the braindead, and to turn the mind off as Mel Gibson is compared to Sigmund Freud is a vibrant, disconnected treat indeed. It is good to satiate the desire for trash filmmaking every now and then, but the big-budget stylings of What Women Want give it a flair and touch somewhat out of place in the usual dreck of the era.
Where the American comedy feature will often fail is in its representation of slapstick. What Meyers figures out, though, is that having a big-name actor whose natural element is drama perform these pieces is far funnier than a comedian in their element. Having Gibson, stark naked, drunk on wine putting on stockings and waxing his legs with honey is far funnier than an established comedian doing so. It is the image Gibson embodies, as well as what the character presents in the early moments, that make What Women Want so tremendously strange. There is a strong feeling behind it, that Meyers and Gibson are both attempting to poke fun at the hypermasculinity Hollywood built up for decades before its release, and they do a good enough job of not just dismantling it, but laughing about it too. At times, What Women Want is as shocking as the incident that gives Marshall the ability to hear thoughts of the opposite sex.
Horribly dated, and it is hard to imagine, in his current form, Mel Gibson is indeed what women want. He smacks bottoms, brags about his sex life and, generally, acts the cocky tit audiences loved twenty years ago. If we are to watch and even try and appreciate What Women Want, we must look at it from the contemporary perspective. There is a sick and twisted beauty to how horrible an attitude these characters have not just to women, but to everyone around them. It plays that out as distasteful, and we can now laugh at the portrayal Gibson gives, rather than with these antics that were once seen as passive, but are now seen as sleazy, pestering characters.