Film Review – The Other Woman
The Other Woman
What target audience was The Other Woman (2014) aimed for? The premise would have us believe it involves female bonding and camaraderie, and yet all the advertisements show supermodel Kate Upton – sporting a bikini – running down the beach in slow motion, her “assets” bouncing in full glory. Kind of throwing mixed messages there, aren’t we? That’s the problem here. Director Nick Cassavetes (and first time screenwriter Melissa Stack) seem unsure what kind of movie they want to make. It’s difficult to buy into the importance of self-reliance in a film that features vomit and poop jokes. Don’t get me wrong, I like vomit and poop jokes as much as the next person. But don’t tell me these are people we’re supposed to take seriously in the very next scene.
In tossing so many different tones and ideas into the pot, the filmmakers essentially watered down any meaningful effect. As a result, what we get is trivial – albeit slightly entertaining. If that’s your thing, more power to you. The cast brings a lot of gusto with their performances, but the writing, directing, and editing has no confidence to lean on their natural chemistry. For example: Kate (Leslie Mann) is a housewife who one day discovers her husband Mark (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) has been cheating on her with super attorney Carly (Cameron Diaz). In her loneliness and despair, Kate actually comes to Carly to express her grief, only to find they get along really well. Leslie Mann and Cameron Diaz work great together on screen, generating a ton of laughs. But instead of building on their rapport, the movie cheats itself by cutting to an unnecessary montage, backed by a soundtrack that hits too hard on the nose.
This happens constantly. Here’s a situation where the characters work together so well that when the narrative returns to the mechanics of the plot, we’re reminded how predictable and unnecessary it is. I’d rather watch Carly and Kate hang out for an hour and half than see them bumble through this stupid revenge story. Do we think Mark will get away with scheming behind their backs? Do we think Kate and Carly will forgive and forget? Or do we think they’ll band together and teach him a lesson? And will they have a ton of fun while doing it? If you have trouble answering any of these questions, might I suggest seeking professional help.
Cameron Diaz brings a nice mixture of reluctance and cynicism as Carly. She isn’t sure about this borderline nutcase that is Kate, but is able to see through her neuroticism to discover the pain underneath. Once she recognizes that, her willingness to join the fight increases two fold. As for Leslie Mann: she is the star of the show. As a performer, she has been funny for quite some time, and in her role as Kate we get to see her really flaunt her comedic talents. She’s quirky, endearing, and lovable. Kate is the type of person who might be a little off upstairs, but in a way that pulls us in instead of pushes us away. She spent years as the devoted wife, always supporting her husband by his side. When she finds out about his affair, it rocks her world to the core, but allows her to see opportunities she didn’t see before. It took the pain inflicted by her man to start improving her life, which seems kind of strange. Couldn’t she have done this on her own, or did Mark stifle her development? We don’t dig that far in, but hey, we sure got a lot of montages!
Kate Upton is pretty. Very pretty. But she is not as experienced or as capable an actress as Cameron Diaz or Leslie Mann. I wonder why she’s in this movie to begin with, other than being eye candy (again, who is this film made for?). We learn she plays Amber, Mark’s other mistress. So that’s his third lover, second mistress for those keeping score. Upton does her darnedest to keep up, willing to portray the stereotypical, “dumb blonde” caricature as best she can. But her lack of acting ability comes off noticeably. Her lines are cut to provide the bare minimum necessary to keep her character involved. In a plot where we’re supposed to get three women operating on the same playing field, Upton is clearly relegated to the third wheel. Amber could have been removed during the writing process entirely, and the film would’ve ended up pretty much the same.
The Other Woman works best when Cameron Diaz and (to a larger extent) Leslie Mann are given the freedom to operate and do their thing. Unfortunately, they get stuck chugging through the requirements of a stale script. They deserve a film that trusts in their skills to keep us engaged. But instead, they get a bad karaoke performance of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.”[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BlHMHLuJWbo&w=560&h=315]