In the Land of Women

"The O.C." afforded many a young heartthrob the chance to act like love hurts so good, while the soundtrack sold the audience another heart-achey song destined for a compilation album. The co-star of that series, Adam Brody, takes the lead in the new film "In the Land of Women," a slickly artificial "personal" number written and directed by Jonathan Kasdan. (His brother, Jake, has his own film out soon, "The TV Set.") Musically it's the same deal here: Every time the characters learn something or reveal a painful secret or just go to the mall, in comes the latest bland alt-piffle to explain the emotions.

Kasdan, the son of Lawrence "Big Chill" Kasdan, has written a catnip version of himself as a protagonist. Carter (Brody) is a fledgling L.A. screenwriter who writes soft porn to make ends meet. Dumped by his actress girlfriend, he travels to a tony Detroit suburb to spend time with his ailing grandmother (Olympia Dukakis, scrappy and adorable in the worst way) and to clear his head.

Across the street, behind a superbly manicured lawn, live the Hardwickes. Teenager Lucy (Kristen Stewart, of "Panic Room" and "Zathura") is a sullen rebel, unsettled by her father's unacknowledged infidelity to her mother, Sarah, played by Meg Ryan. Ryan's character develops a life-threatening disease. With Carter, both Lucy and Sarah strike up friendships bordering on Something Else. The experiences transform Carter into a wiser young man, albeit one who never really undergoes any compelling inner (or outer) conflict. The world, as Carter realizes, is "messy and chaotic." Kasdan has inherited much of his father's surface skills; he knows how to round out a scene and keep things on story point. But "In the Land of Women" doesn't for a moment feel messy and chaotic where it counts.

A lot of it is pleasantly acted, especially when Stewart takes the screen. Ryan works hard, though you keep waiting for her character to broach the delicate subject of her recent unnecessary lip enhancement.

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