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— by Larry Carroll

The way Cameron Diaz sees it, there are as many types of women — in temperament, style, attitude, outlook — as there are varieties of footwear. And to paraphrase the old saying, if you want to learn something about a person, walk a mile in her shoes.

"Shoes are very important," Diaz said recently while discussing the comedic drama, not-very-coincidentally titled "In Her Shoes," in which she plays a party girl slowly coming to grips with reality. "Women love shoes; there's no secret about that. I think it's because we appreciate the aesthetic of architecture, and the sculpting and the masterpieces that we can find in various shoes. I love the shoes I put on. Each one of them represents a part of who I am."

Cameron Diaz Retrospective

Cameron Diaz, Toni Collette, More At "In Her Shoes" Premiere

"In Her Shoes" Photos

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Don't be too quick to label her new film a "chick flick," however, or you might just be calling attention to one of your own shoes — as you put it in your mouth.

"Someone said to me the other day, 'Take someone to see "In Her Shoes," and you're gonna get lucky,' " revealed Curtis Hanson, the Oscar-nominated director who has made a career out of transcending the supposedly limited audiences of noir films ("L.A. Confidential") and rap-star vehicles ("8 Mile"). "I'm a man, and I read the screenplay and was very caught up in it. How do I see myself? What are the expectations for myself in life? How do I become a better version of myself? Those are my issues, those are everybody's issues. They are human issues, and that's what excited me about making this movie."

Like a big-screen version of "Sex and the City," "Shoes" aims to hold up a mirror to women while offering the men who will (no doubt reluctantly) accompany them to the movie a rare glimpse into what really makes their girlfriends and wives tick. Everyone has known a beautiful, irresponsible flake who gets away with anything and everything because of her looks (Diaz's Maggie), a frumpy sister/friend whose inner beauty is ignored or worse ("The Sixth Sense" star Toni Collette's Rose) and the irreverent, carping matriarch whose perceived wisdom masks her own insecurities (Shirley MacLaine's Ella). When Maggie's giddy recklessness forces the women together to face one another and their unresolved issues, they have almost as much to learn from each other as we do in watching them.

"I just let them go ahead and write whatever they'll write," Diaz said of critics who are calling the film her first truly award-worthy drama. "This is really different for me? I'm like, OK, whatever, if you say so."

  "In Her Shoes" Clip: This is my sister

  "In Her Shoes" Clip: Shoes always fit

  More "In Her Shoes" video ...

"It's very realistic," she continued, discussing the film's script. "It's very slice-of-life — it's not a comedy, it's not a drama. It ebbs and flows with the experiences these women are going through. So that's life; you're not always laughing, you're not always crying. You have your ups and downs. There's a little more drama than usual, but there are a lot of laughs, too."

One other reason that men may want to allow their dates to "talk them into" going to the movie is the continued cinematic obsession (sparked by the "Charlie's Angels" movies and reinforced in virtually every scene of "The Sweetest Thing") with Cameron Diaz's hindquarters. Hanson, however, uses long, lingering shots of the star's scantily clad butt to take the supposed sexploitation to a whole different level while simultaneously commenting on the utter desperation behind Maggie's public displays of sensuality.

"It's hard to embrace your butt," the 71-year-old MacLaine laughed while discussing the Diaz phenomenon. "I would like to try that; that's one I haven't done. But that's more Jennifer Lopez's department."

The sly MacLaine added that her co-star should continue to embrace the attention, adding: "She could work her way up [the Hollywood ladder], and have a lot more fun."

"Cameron has legs like nobody else, legs that everybody wishes they had," Hanson added, choosing his words carefully. " 'In Her Shoes' is about somebody who exists through and for the approving glances she gets from men, and so she wants to show off."

"I don't know if I should go into this, but in this movie Maggie is really kind of busty," Collette remarked, reflecting on another section of the anatomy paid great attention by Hanson's camera. "Cameron was getting ready for a shot and I was like, 'Go ahead, get [your boobs] ready; that's what you're here for.' And she turned around and said, 'No — this is why I'm here,' and she pointed to her ass!"

"I know, I know; it's the great irony in my life, honestly," Diaz self-deprecatingly joked, fidgeting and fighting for the right words to capture how she felt about her unarguable status as a sex symbol. "I mean, certainly it's a ... I'm not gonna fight it. It's flattering. Every woman wants to know that something on them is attractive, to at least one person."

Whether they're lining up for the lingering shots of its star's assets or to bask in the film's message of empowerment and reconciliation, audiences will soon get a chance to see if, as a smart, adult-friendly comedy-drama, "In Her Shoes" stands on its own feet.

Check out everything we've got on "In Her Shoes."

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