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What Women Want

What Women Want title card

Year - 2000
Studio - Paramount Pictures
Stars - Mel Gibson, Helen Hunt, Marisa Tomei, Mark Feuerstein, Lauren Holly, Alan Alda, Delta Burke, Valerie Perrine, Judy Greer
Director - Nancy Meyers
Writing Credits - Josh Goldsmith, Cathy Yuspa, Diane Drake (story), Josh Goldsmith, Cathy Yuspa (screenplay)
Music - Alan Silvestri

Synopsis

Nick Marshall (Mel Gibson) is known as a "man's man" or what is also referred to as a male chauvinist. His mother was a Vegas showgirl and he was raised virtually backstage. As an adult, he is a divorced father of a 15-year old daughter, Alex (Ashley Johnson) and the Creative Director for a major Chicago ad agency, and his specialty is male oriented ads featuring such images as girls in bikinis.

Agency head Dan Wanamaker (Alan Alda) summons him for a meeting and Nick assumes he'll be getting a big promotion. But Dan tells him that he's hired an outsider for the job, because of the need to be successful in the $40 billion emerging women's' market. The new director is Darcy McGuire (Helen Hunt), who comes with a formidable reputation. At her first staff meeting, she gives everyone a pink box containing typical women's' products and assigns them homework to come up with advertising ideas. That night in his apartment, Nick, fueled by too much alcohol, attempts to better understand the female experience by trying out the products. He waxes his leg, paints his nails, and wears pantyhose. Stumbling around in his bathroom with a hairdryer, he falls into the bathtub and receives a severe shock.

What Women Want poster

The next morning, he is amazed to discover that he is hearing the thoughts of women, his maid, the door woman, and all the women on the street. At the office, his women co-workers' thoughts reveal what they really think of him, and it's not complimentary. Although his new found ability is at first maddening, he realizes he can use it to his career advantage. He convinces Darcy to let him come up with an ad campaign for a huge account they hope to get from Nike. Nick goes throughout the city, taking notes on the thoughts of women in all venues. When he has meetings with Darcy, he responds to her thoughts before she can verbalize them, as if they were his own ideas.

Nick also uses his new found appreciation of women's' needs to better relate to his daughter who, until now, had been cynical about him as a parent, and called him "Nick" rather than "Dad."

Darcy is more and more drawn to Nick, finding him on the same "wavelength" as her. Nick is equally attracted to her, and begins to feel guilty about using her thoughts for his own purposes.

One of the employees whose thoughts are heard by Nick is Erin, the file girl (Judy Greer). Nick realizes she is suicidal and, when she doesn't show up for work, he goes to her Chinatown apartment and intervenes. But in the outside alley, he is jolted by a brief electrical transformer malfunction, and his telepathic ability disappears.

His strategy to build a Nike ad campaign proposal, by infiltrating women's' thoughts and especially Darcy's ideas, is a success and Nike signs the contract. Dan Wanamaker decides that hiring Darcy was a mistake and he fires her, giving the job back to Nick. But Nick insists that he rehire her, arguing that the Nike signing was a direct result of Darcy's efforts.

Nick goes to Darcy's apartment to confess his sabotage and, in his now vulnerable state, to plead his need to be "rescued". She surprises him by telling him he's fired. Nick starts to leave, resigned to his fate, but she calls him back to embrace him and offer the rescue he needs.

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