April 24, 2014

Other Woman, The

starhalf

A movie review by James Berardinelli



Other Woman, The

COMEDY:

United States, 2014

U.S. Release Date:

2014-04-25

Running Length:

1:49

MPAA Classification:

PG-13 (Sexual Content, Profanity)

Theatrical Aspect Ratio:

2.35:1

Cast:

Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, Kate Upton, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Don Johnson, Taylor Kinney, Nicki Minaj

Director:

Nick Cassavetes

Screenplay:

Melissa Stack

Cinematography:

Robert Fraisse

Music:

Aaron Zigman

U.S. Distributor:

20th Century Fox

Subtitles:

none


Has it come to this for director Nick Cassavetes? The son of acclaimed iconoclast filmmaker John Cassavetes, Nick has been toiling in mostly indie circles for the better part of his career, making some fine motion pictures in the process: Unhook the Stars, Alpha Dog, and My Sister's Keeper. What a comedown to find him in charge of such an unfocused, unfunny, scatologically-obsessed "comedy." A movie that relies on audience obtuseness and believes infantile humor is the best kind, The Other Woman ignores dozens of potentially edgy possibilities to tell the most banal story imaginable - and to do it badly. Cassavetes isn't solely responsible for this misbegotten creation but, as director, he has to assume the lion's share of the liability.

The studio would have us believe that The Other Woman is a "female empowerment" motion picture. However, the only thing this movie informs viewers is that comedies with female protagonists can be just as insulting and offensive as those with male protagonists. As much as I may have disliked Bridesmaids and Bachelorette, at least those movies had the courage of their convictions to descend into the mud and revel in bodily fluids and raunchiness. The Other Woman arrives with a tarnished PG-13 rating, meaning it self-censors in ways that are painfully obvious. The movie dances around the edges of the R-rated envelope but is careful never to penetrate it.

The screenplay, credited to Melissa Stack (her first feature), can't decide whether it wants to be funny or serious and, as is so often the case, it ends up being neither. It doesn't help that the main antagonist, who is portrayed sanely throughout most of the production, turns into a frothing-at-the-mouth lunatic during the final sequence. It would be easy enough to dismiss the concept of "character consistency" in an outright comedy but The Other Woman wants to develop some melodrama - the pain experienced by the wife and the bizarre sense of sisterhood that ripens among the women.

Still, bad drama can be forgiven if the laughs are abundant. And, while comedy is subjective, The Other Woman falls considerably short of the hilarity quotient served by other, similarly targeted motion pictures (The Hangover comes to mind). It also relies heavily on "gross-out" humor - the kind of stuff that appeals to eight-year-old boys. In one scene, a character vomits into her handbag. In another, a dog takes a dump on a kitchen floor. Then there's a painful sequence in which a character, victimized by a laxative overdose, spends an excruciatingly long time in a bathroom stall. That's not to say there's nothing funny to be found in The Other Woman - the "Mission Impossible" scene is amusing and there are some witty one-liners, but those are needle-in-the-haystack moments, and the haystack is littered with manure.

The premise of The Other Woman resembles that of the frothy 2003 film, Chasing Papi. It starts out with the rhythm of a traditional rom-com, with a handsome, wealthy businessman, Mark (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Jaime Lannister in Game of Thrones), wooing hard-hearted lawyer Carly (Cameron Diaz, in full "cold hearted bitch" mode). He breaks through her defenses with ease, oozing too much charm to be real. When paying a surprise visit to his home, Carly learns the truth: he's married. After several awkwardly choreographed encounters, Carly and Kate (Leslie Mann, playing a version of the same character she essays in every Judd Apatow film) become improbable friends. Then they learn that Mark has another woman on the side - the bodacious Amber (Kate Upton, who can't act - not that it matters). The three women get together and concoct a revenge scheme.

Actually, as the women's plot, which involves laxatives, estrogen, and a hair removal product, gets underway, The Other Woman shows signs of becoming enjoyable, but the illusion is short-lived. The distasteful bathroom scene kills any burgeoning comedic momentum. The ending is mishandled with the "spectacular" climax being noticeably botched. Possibly because it involves an elaborate special effect, it couldn't be repeated so we're left with something sloppy and incompetent. Sadly, those qualities describe not only the ending but the movie as a whole. Hollywood has recently discovered that there's a market for the Sex and the City demographic. Foisting movies like this upon them is a good way to dry it up.

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