Film Review- ‘The Other Woman’ (***)

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Who needs a guy when these two are your pals?
Who needs a guy when these two are your pals?

“The Other Woman”  *** (out of 5)

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

Written by: Melissa Stack

Directed by: Nick Cassavetes

 

It would be bad form to pigeonhole Cameron Diaz as strictly a ‘comedic’ actor.  On one hand, she does have good comedic timing, even if I haven’t always enjoyed those movies.  On the other, she has the range to shine in Oscar contenders (“Being John Malkovich”, “Gangs of New York”).  What seems clear is her ability as a lead to draw audiences to her ‘chick flicks’, considering her general appeal to both women and men.  Director Nick Cassavetes’ “The Other Woman” is an excellent example of this, a female-driven story with a predominantly female-targeted audience that men can enjoy as well.  This is a film heavy on laughs, slick on delivery, and lays on just the right amount of schmaltz without being overly corny.  While it won’t break any new ground or redefine a genre, the parts of it that work are highly effective, and I expect it to settle nicely into a Saturday afternoon time slot on basic cable for years to come.

Diaz stars as Carly, a high-powered attorney.  We know she must be an impressive legal eagle, for the camera lingers not once, not twice, but three times during the course of the film on her firm’s logo.  I get it- the filmmakers want to make sure we see Carly as a career-driven woman first and not a tramp, but I always consider the blatant focus on success a slap in the face to the actor.  Diaz can handle that portrayal all by herself, and we the audience can handle the nuance between personal and professional just fine, thank you.  Back to Carly- she appears to have met her match in Mark (Coster-Waldau, HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’).  He’s an energetic, handsome, apparently successful guy that she has completely fallen for.  Imagine Carly’s surprise when she shows up half-naked at his door and Kate (Mann) answers.  Kate, of course, is Mark’s wife.

This discovery is a crushing blow to both Carly and Kate, as they both viewed Mark as the perfect man.  Carly, who had taken that big step from the dating scene to a committed relationship, is now a big ball of jaded. Kate, comfortable and a bit naive, is simply crushed.  She skipped out on big career plans to support her husband, and no longer sees the forest for the trees.  In an odd twist, Kate seeks out Carly, and begrudgingly, they both become friendly.  Their solution for Mark?  Revenge, otherwise the movie ends here.

Imagine their surprise when they find yet another woman involved, in the form of the buxom, young Amber (Upton).  Once she’s in the know, they involve her in their revenge plot, and the games begin.  All sorts of cruelties are perpetrated upon Mark, from estrogen pills and laxatives to manipulations of his already shady business dealings.  It’s clear Mark is a shady dude, devoid of any redeeming quality save his charm, and it’s clear that he’s due for a fall.  What these ladies do physically to this man is borderline abusive, and any equal action upon a woman might be considered a criminal act, but that’s not what this discussion is about.  Mark is a slimy pig, and revenge is allowed, even necessary, according to this film.

The result of these actions, however, create the centerpiece of enjoyment for this film, i.e. the chemistry these three women develop.  Through their friendship, all three feed off each other to break the bonds they formed with the dastardly Mark, and they’re able to begin again.  Kate’s brother, the hunky Phil (Kinney, TV’s ‘Chicago Hope’) gets involved to help out his sister, and offers the story’s yin to Mark’s yang, and catches Carly’s eye in the process.  Kate starts to realize the talents she left behind for her husband.  Even Amber starts to see a brighter future for herself.  The script is well-written in this way, providing logical, resonant conclusions for these women instead of opting for corny, typical wedding scenes, or something of the like. One particular scene involving the three women and a gathering on the beach toward the end of the film is supremely graceful despite the complete lack of spoken words.

There is nothing grand to proclaim about “The Other Woman”, as it is a relatively safe comedy.  Aside from a couple of oddly placed poop jokes, nothing steps too far out-of-bounds.  I do wonder if a darker tone would have worked more, or what a few well-placed ‘f-bombs’ might have done for effect, but it certainly has strengths as is.  For one, Leslie Mann is simply a comedic tour-de-force here, combining the ability to make pitiable depression and patient revenge seem utterly hilarious.  Mann simply shines, and I hope she continues landing meaty roles to showcase her many talents.  Diaz seems right at home with this material, able to convey strength, smarts, comedic energy, and elegance simultaneously, all while toning down the camp from previous comedic outings.  To be honest, I was weary about heading into this film based on the marketing I’d seen.  I got the distinct feeling that this would end up resembling the dreadful “The Holiday”.  Instead, Diaz and crew have delivered a film that respected its’ characters and audience just enough to make this ‘chick flick’ a worthwhile entry for both the girls and guys.  What a change!

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