Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Other Woman

* out of ****

The Other Woman opens with a sexually-charged, yet PG-13 commencement of a relationship between Carly, played by Cameron Diaz and Mark, played by Game of ThronesNikolaj Coster-Waldau –one of those super-Danes who can speak English in any accent pretty well. She is a high-powered attorney and he is some kind of New York businessman. This relationship is shown in the form of a montage like many things in the movie, which is always a Hollywood-friendly alternative to actually developing justification for how something forms.

In this case, the montage is supposed to show us that Carly has found the right man. What we are shown, however, is that he is a good-looking rich guy who takes her to nice places and satisfies her in bed. Not much else. We then discover that Mark hasn’t told Carly about his wife named Kate, played by Leslie Mann, who is needy for attention and oblivious to Mark’s deceptions.

When Carly finds out where Mark lives, she drops by one night only to have Kate open the door. Mark is out and Carly unsuccessfully attempts to play off the visit as a simple case of a mistaken address. Carly is soon stalked by Kate -on the grounds that she feels a kinship through their being duped by the same man. Carly is resistant to this naïve and manic woman, but they soon bond.

After discovering Mark to be out of town on “business” they embark on a mission (because a big New York attorney like Carly has a lot of time on her hands) to spy on him. They discover him to be dating two gigantic breasts, played by swimsuit model Kate Upton. Her character’s name is Amber and after secretly informing her of Mark’s serial deception of women, the three ladies plot revenge.

Some of the music choices in the movie are pitiful. There’s a sequence where the girls are all having fun and they play Girls Just Want to Have Fun. Not kidding. There’s also a part where Kate is so excited at the prospect of spying on Mark that she wears all-black and brings a grappling hook with a rope as the theme to Mission: Impossible plays. I was under the impression that this music cue lost its comic potency after the nineties.

But I digress. I’m losing touch with the meaning of the film. Mark’s presence throughout most of this movie is meaningless. He’s no Don Draper when it comes to the character depth of a cheating husband and the turmoil these women eventually put him though doesn’t feel rewarding. Putting a face to the wrongdoer who affected these women early in the film is a distracting mistake because the story is about the sisterhood formed by three females based on the typical (although outdated) manipulations of a man. There’s just about no need to see who this man is.

Maybe I’m missing the point entirely. This movie is supposed to be funny… right? Well it really isn’t. It’s pretty lame. The comic potential of Diaz and Mann is diminished pretty early when the shallow dialogue and pitifully contrived comic set-pieces seem outrageous for the sake of being outrageous. There are also quite a few scatological gags in this film, which belong in a Farrelly Brothers movie and break its chances in having the respectability of a traditional farce.

It must be a real burden for director Nick Cassavetes to be the son of John, who brought realism to US cinema through independent simplicity and raw emotion. Nick seems to have formed a career of cheap laughs and manipulative drama in spite of his father's work. The Other Woman is condescending and barely triggers a gut reaction in terms of its comedy. It met all my cynical expectations associated with chick-flicks when all I wanted was a little redeeming surprise here and there. 

I only hope that its first-time screenwriter, Melissa Stack, can grow from the success of this film and write another story about female empowerment that actually has some real social commentary and hilarity. It wouldn’t be a major achievement though. Someone did that thirty-four years ago with 9 to 5, a movie that feels years ahead of this one.

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