The Other Woman (2014)
Directed by: Nick Cassavetes
Premise: A lawyer (Cameron Diaz) discovers that her boyfriend is married. She makes contact with his wife (Leslie Mann) and the two discover that he maintains additional mistresses on the side. They join forces with another of his women (Kate Upton) to plot revenge.
What Works: The most impressive aspect of The Other Woman is the relationship between the two main characters, played by Cameron Diaz and Leslie Mann. It is rare to have a Hollywood movie led by a female character and even rarer to have multiple women filling out the starring roles. The relationship between Diaz and Mann generally works for the movie and each of them plays distinct characters with specific story turf. Diaz’s character is a woman who has achieved great success in her career but has had a less than satisfying love life and is looking to settle down. Mann’s character is the inverse, a woman who gave up her career for domesticity and the discovery of her husband’s infidelity shatters the assumptions she had about her life. Although this film is a comedy, it’s the more dramatic scenes of The Other Woman that play best. This often falls to Cameron Diaz, who anchors the picture and leads the women in their revenge. Diaz’s filmography is rife with highs and lows, but The Other Woman shows off her range of talents and her character possesses a level of complexity that is rare for a woman in a Hollywood film, especially in a comedy. As the women plot their revenge they pick apart the husband’s business practices, uncovering a financial scam, and this turn in the plot is surprisingly and gratifyingly smart. The business subplot grows out of the story organically and it also allows for the women to get revenge in a way that is more satisfying than the sophomoric shenanigans of the middle of the picture. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau plays the cheating husband, and he is very effective in the role. Coster-Waldau strikes a balance of slime and swagger, making the audience hate him while also exuding enough charm to make us believe that he could succeed as a serial cheater.
What Doesn’t: The dramatic scenes of The Other Woman are successful but this is a comedy and unfortunately the comedic scenes don’t play very well. The movie does elicit laughs but they are rarely above the level of a chuckle and the movie is never funny enough. Part of the problem is the picture’s disjointed tone. The Other Woman begins in the mold of movies like Bridesmaids and Wedding Crashers but the dramatic sequences tend to throw off the tenor of the story and the picture goes especially wrong when it resorts to physical or sophomoric comedy. When the trio of scorned women decide to take revenge, they begin by pulling pranks on the husband such as slipping laxatives and estrogen into his drinks. These pranks are not very imaginative, often recycling gags of other movies like Dumb and Dumber and John Tucker Must Die, and they come across as filler to inflate the running time of the movie before it gets to the financial subplot. Leslie Mann is usually a reliable actress but not in The Other Woman. When she plays for drama she is pretty good but in the scenes in which she plays for obtuse laughs her performance sinks; she does not look like a woman going through a breakdown but as an actress pantomiming a woman going through a breakdown and her scenes feel false. Also less than honest are the film’s sexual politics. The Other Woman is ostensibly a female empowerment story in which scorned women take on a man who wronged them but whenever swimsuit model Kate Upton appears onscreen the filmmakers employ the techniques of softcore porn and constantly photograph her jogging in slow motion or rising from a chair so that her rear end is perfectly framed in the shot. This undercuts whatever pretensions to feminism that the moviemakers may have had.
Bottom Line: The Other Woman isn’t terrible but it isn’t especially memorable either. It’s clumsy and unimaginative, the kind of comedy that groups of people might watch together as part of a social gathering but on its own merits The Other Woman is pretty weak.
Episode: #489 (May 4, 2014)