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Three women stick it to the man who stuck it to all of them in The Other Woman, a female solidarity adultery comedy that’s three parts embarrassing farce to one part genuinely comic discharge. Making erratic use of its promising central premise as well as of its uniformly attractive cast, this slick package is nowhere near as good as it could have been but will still hold considerable appeal for female audiences who will enjoy a good joke at the expense of the cheatin’ man, while men may not mind going along as well just to check out Kate Upton, this generation’s 10.
For a film conceived by a woman, first-time screenwriter Melissa K. Stack, and devoted to women getting back at a serial seducer, a great deal of the running time here is devoted to the leading ladies making absolute fools of themselves over the guy who thinks he’s getting away with cheating on all of them. Of course, it’s all part of the set-up for him finally getting payback, which he does in spades. But it would have helped if director Nick Cassavetes had something resembling a sure hand at comedy. It’s almost as if the funny scenes happen virtually by chance, like a lucky roll of the dice, with some decently written scenes not getting the laughs they should and other silly ones eliciting comic snorts thanks to an actor’s passing gesture or delivery.
The snake in the grass here is Mark (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), a successful investment banker type who at the outset enjoys an idyllic fling with Carly (Cameron Diaz), a Manhattan attorney who’s been around enough to know how to handle herself. One thing she’s not accustomed to, however, is being played for a fool, which she becomes upon learning that Mark has long been married to Kate (Leslie Mann), a Connecticut housewife and ditz who suggests she needs to attend “brain camp” and enters into a prolonged seizure when she finds out about her husband and the hot-to-trot blonde.
Most of Kate’s breakdown is played out in Carly’s presence, as the film becomes a virtual two-hander for nearly a half-hour, with Kate barging into Carly’s fancy office, the two having drinks, going to Carly’s apartment (where Kate doesn’t want to sit anywhere Carly and Mark might have had sex, which pretty much rules out everywhere) and generally bonding over a shared grievance to the point where they feel, not like rivals or enemies, but sisters in outrage and potential vengeance.
To be sure, Kate is a weeping, whining and winging pain whom Mann makes into even more of a nut case than she is on paper. As if still in one of her husband Judd Apatow‘s films, she marches right into the bathroom at the beginning and sits down to take a pee, lets her Great Dane make out with her, in Carly’s view, and generally carries on at such a high pitch you can almost sympathize with her husband’s need to get away from time to time, just as you can agree with Carly that enough’s enough, already. But she’s also lovable, offbeat and massively self-deprecating, to the point that Carly is ultimately moved to help Kate with the divorce and a bit of spying.
Carly has also noticed that Kate has quite the cute brother, Phil (Taylor Kinney), from whose place on Southampton Beach they can observe Mark, who’s now secretly involved with much younger knockout Amber (Upton). One of the film’s more unseemly moments has the normally self-possessed Carly coming completely unglued and falling all over herself upon seeing the massively jiggling Amber jogging down the beach (in Bo Derek-like slow motion, no less). But she turns out to be a nice girl and, while less pissed than the older women about having been betrayed by Mark, she agreeably joins them in their plotting against a man who obviously doesn’t recognize something good when he’s got it. As Kate puts it in one of the script’s better lines, “I feel like she ups our group average.”
On the screenwriting downside, however, is the issue that a seducer as rampant as Mark has had to have behaved like this his whole life and certainly throughout his long marriage to Kate. But, except very briefly at the end, there’s no broaching this point, and even if Kate has been too blind to see it, it’s something a woman as wise to the ways of the world as Carly would have noticed. Worse, once the man gets his comeuppance, his reaction is embarrassingly babyish, that of a little boy who doesn’t get his way. Stack may have been trying to make a point about some modern men here, but the satisfaction of the women’s ultimate victory is undercut by how unbelievable and, worse, unfunny Mark’s excruciatingly prolonged reaction is.
Just before this unsatisfactory climax, the film has already taken a nosedive with a series of scenes that are cued entirely to an unharmonious collection of musical snippets; there’s hardly any dialogue or dramatic development to this ungainly stretch of scenes as the group returns from the Bahamas to New York.
For the film’s humor to have gone over at all, which it does in spurts, Diaz and Mann had to be totally game and they are that, without question. Both grate at certain moments, but they’re funny and ingratiating too, certainly willing to look foolish in the knowledge that they’re playing for the winning team. Upton does what she’s called upon to do, look great in a bikini, and rarely has more than one line to speak at a time. Game of Thrones star Coster-Waldau has no trouble convincing us that he’s the sort of cad who can score whenever and wherever he wants, although the actor who may turn the most heads is Kinney (TV’s Chicago Fire) as the available brother. Don Johnson appears briefly as the fives-times-married father of Carly, to whom she unaccountably listens for romantic advice.
Production: LBI Entertainment
Cast: Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, Kate Upton, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Nicki Minaj, Taylor Kinney, Don Johnson, David Thornton, Victor Cruz
Director: Nick Cassavetes
Screenwriter: Melissa K. Stack
Producer: Julie Yorn
Executive producers: Donald J. Lee Jr., Chuck Pacheco
Director of photography: Robert Fraisse
Production designer: Dan Davis
Costume designer: Patricia Field, Paolo Nieddu
Editors: Alan Heim, Jim Flynn
Music: Aaron Zigman
Rated PG-13, 109 minutes
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