THE OTHER WOMAN Movie Review – Sisters Doing It For Themselves
Based on a decade-and-a-half as a director, there’s little evidence that Nick Cassavetes (Alpha Dog, The Notebook, John Q, She’s So Lovely) has the ability to direct comedy, let alone female-centered comedy, but Cassavetes’ lack of experience didn’t stop the producers of The Other Woman from handing Cassavetes the directing reins. It was – like practically every decision associated with The Other Woman – an ill-conceived decision. Of course, that’s purely from an artistic standpoint. From a purely commercial, financial, and professional perspective, it made perfect sense for Cassavetes to direct The Other Woman, working with Cameron Diaz again after collaborating with her on My Sister’s Keeper, a female-oriented, unapologetic, soapy tearjerker. If anything, Cassavetes has proven himself surprisingly adept at directing everything from mainstream-oriented melodramas (e.g., The Notebook) to gritty urban dramas (e.g., Alpha Dog). Comedy, however, has eluded him.
The Other Woman primarily centers on the credulity-stretching relationship between Diaz’s character, Carly Whitten, a high-powered Manhattan attorney at a seemingly prestigious law firm prone to wearing bright-red dresses and the occasional leather skirt to the office, Kate King (Leslie Mann), a woman she encounters under inauspicious circumstances. Unbeknownst to Carly, she’s been sleeping with Kate’s husband, Mark (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), a serial cheater and inveterate liar. He’s also a venture capitalist/investment banker. (Make of that what you will.) Carly only discovers the truth about Mark inadvertently when she pays Mark a surprise visit at his Connecticut home. Instead of Mark, she encounters Kate, a perpetually ditzy, super-hyper, perpetually-on-the-verge-of-a-nervous breakdown suburban housewife.
The news of Mark’s infidelity absolutely crushes the friendless Kate – in comedies, romantic or otherwise, friendships usually don’t extend beyond one or two people or one or two siblings (if that) – compelling her to seek out Carly against any rationale reason (except the needs of the plot, of course), first to confirm Mark’s infidelity in publicly humiliating fashion, then later over drinks, where they commiserate about their first-world woes before a newly intoxicated Kate throws up into her handbag. It’s only the first of several gross-out gags in The Other Woman, each one more cringe inducing and overtly desperate than the last (hint: where there’s vomit, there’s usually fecal humor too). Calm and collected, Carly essentially plays straight woman to Kate’s spastic, self-deprecating depredations and gyrations. Of such public humiliations and embarrassments, long-lasting, profound friendships are borne (at least onscreen).
Contra her better instincts, Carly befriends Kate. Carly’s personal failure at romantic relationships provides the common ground necessary for her to bond with Kate (and vice versa). At first it’s all talk, an airing out of grievances, commiserating over their mistreatment from the callow, shallow Mark. When Mark makes weekend plans that don’t include either Carly or Kate, they track him down to the Hamptons – where, not coincidentally, Kate’s salt-of-the-earth, works-with-his-hands contractor brother, Phil (Taylor Kinney). Carly immediately takes a shine to Phil, leading to one of The Other Woman’s funniest retorts (Kate objects to Carly’s carnal greed). More importantly, Carly and Kate discover Mark has yet another, much younger girlfriend, Amber (Kate Upton). Perceptive if not exactly bright, Amber joins the anti-Mark club without pause or reflection.
Exploiting Upton’s physical assets to the nth degree, Cassavetes introduces Amber in super-slow motion, the better for the audience to catch every bounce and jiggle. It might also be an homage to Blake Edwards’ 10, with Upton in the Bo Derek role (minus the cornrows, thankfully). Upton gets the occasional line, usually delivered with a reasonable facsimile of believability for an ex-swimsuit model-turned-actress, but it’s obvious her presence in The Other Woman is meant to appeal to a younger, male skewing demographic rather than moviegoers appreciative of nuanced, naturalistic acting. She also provides Carly with her one major meltdown in The Other Woman, raising all sorts of questions about aging, self-image, and the relationships between differently aged women (not, of course, that The Other Woman addresses those questions in any meaningful way, because it doesn’t).
The Other Woman ultimately turns on a revenge plot involving secret bank accounts, a trip to the Bahamas, and a public confrontation that ends in self-administered physical violence. Like much else in The Other Woman, it’s broad, off-kilter, and far from amusing, let alone laugh inducing, but given the constant tonal and genre shifts in The Other Woman, it’s also completely unsurprising. Cassavetes and screenwriter Melissa Stack try to be all things to all moviegoers, mixing a semi-sophisticated relationship comedy-drama with gross-out gags, self- and other-empowerment, and crude, mean-spirited revenge fantasy into a sporadically amusing, periodically satisfying concoction.