Friday, April 25, 2014

MOVIE REVIEW The Other Woman (2014)
The Insecurities And Adventures Of Cheat Avengers

Cameron Diaz as Carly and Leslie Mann as Kate in Nick Cassavetes' comedy "The Other Woman".
  20th Century Fox

Omar P.L. Moore/        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW                                           
Friday, April 25, 2014

"My boyfriend cheated on me -- so I'll show him.  I won't allow myself to feel.  I won't cherish the good things I have: my health, a career and economic stability.  I won't focus on pursuing a different, better relationship.  I'll make his cheating heart burn."  That quoted line isn't spoken in "The Other Woman" but it describes the rhythm of  Nick Cassavetes' comedy, a film, which is, to put it mildly, a nightmare, not for men specifically, but for mankind in general.

It is often said -- and in absolute truth -- that Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, but in "The Other Woman", a simply absurd motion picture, the women are furiously vapid and craven.  The Bechdel test doesn't stand a passing chance in this film, which is written by Melissa Stack. 

Mark (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) cheats on Carly (Cameron Diaz), who finds out that, oh by the way, Mark has a wife -- the creepy, quirky Kate (Leslie Mann).  Kate clings to Carly like Saran Wrap, stalking her like a demented Carrey Cable Guy.  Mark, the most insecure person in the film, also cheats with Amber (Kate Upton).  Of course it doesn't stop there.  Throughout, "The Other Woman" is part wet T-shirt/mud-wrestling contest, part horror movie, and unnecessarily so.  It jiggles and titillates and repels, all at once, and always awkwardly.  Nothing, excrement included, is left to the imagination.

Understandably Kate is miserable and extremely needy, and Ms. Mann's madcap and energetic physical comedy, punctuated by ample shots of her bare legs, are the contours of a rivalry among a trio of attractive women with size zero-and-a-half figures.  Each is too vain or materialistically overwhelmed to engage their own inner beauty (particularly Carly and Kate).  They envy each other but hitch their cause to humiliating a man who doesn't like himself anymore than the women like themselves.  In the process the women self-humiliate in one big cesspool of dead-endedness.  I was saddened by it all, as well as by the robotic and repetitive laugh-track laughter emanating from the public audience in attendance.  That is to whom the film is targeted.  Little of "The Other Woman" is funny, and no less so than the dreadful and serious "The Other Woman", a 2009 film which starred Natalie Portman.

Worse, Carly, a successful lawyer at a white shoe New York City lawfirm, isn't about to let a demanding profession stop her from expending energy on ensuring a cad gets his for two hours.  She knows where her priorities lie, career be damned.  ("See "Baggage Claim".)  A sisterhood, though not one of "Diabolique" proportions, develops.  Each woman isn't lacking for money.  They merely operate in a world that tells them a woman ceases to be beautiful, attractive and viable after 30.  (Ms. Mann and Ms. Diaz are in their 40s in real-life.)  Kate and Carly's abandonment of embracing their own beauty and inner selves is a bigger betrayal than any carnal sins the hollow and unhinged Mark commits.  Both women are smarter but instead dumb down to conform to shallowness in the service of non-threatening but ironically harmful comedy. 

On that note "The Other Woman" is a send-up to an extent, with an intelligent, smart performer like Ms. Diaz, who is so much better in dramatic work ("Vanilla Sky", "The Counselor"), here poking fun at women who just can't live on planet Earth without a man in their life, everything else be damned.  Yet it is difficult to believe that this distracted, often agitated film intends parody.  There's no retreat from 120 mile-an-hour hijinks.  And with Nikki Minaj making her feature film debut as an adult clothed Kewpie/Barbie doll there's every reason to believe that the filmmakers sincerely thought this useless exercise was a good idea.

Incredibly, Mark is almost sympathetic by comparison to the high-octane one-dimensional ladies who can't get enough of loathing him.  Mark is fortunate, though.  For his hurtful moral crimes he doesn't get to reckon with a Thelma or a Louise.  He gets off very lightly, even with what happens to him, though what he gets here seems harsh, even shocking enough owing to the film's bizarre, uneven tone.  Any message about retribution for adultery isn't really sent in "The Other Woman", which says that the way to fight emotional violence is with physical violence, whether self-inflicted or clumsily administered.  An R-rated film (which this film was initially rated as) would have had Mark jump out of a building window. 

The fallacy of "The Other Woman" or at least in the idea it wants to promote, is that in teaching cheating men a lesson women somehow empower themselves.  They don't, even if the film gives you an otherwise sanguine impression.  To all appearances Carly and Kate (and the film) take the easy way out by facing adultery and aging by trying to be 20 again rather than embracing the power and discovery of being better, older, wiser and more beautiful in middle-age.  (If only Carly and Kate knew that older is better!)  By contrast the younger Amber is more of an adult than they are.  This is a comedy, yes, but its silliness is sloppy and misdirected.

Like a number of Hollywood actresses Ms. Diaz knows about being more beautiful, wiser and attractive as she ages.  Her best-selling The Body Book is a very good though not altogether new book in the annals of self-help.  On its cover its author poses, half-naked, a pose not entirely dissimilar from poses the stunning Carly strikes on a beach.  For the record Ms. Diaz looks better than any other woman in the film, including Ms. Upton, who is 20 years her junior. 

While tellingly there's no woman above forty in sight in "The Other Woman", it is stupefying at the very least to think that no men -- younger or older -- vie for Carly's attention, given the film's showcasing of her body.  Even the lone nice guy (played by Taylor Kinney) in a film better titled "The Older Woman", speaks of restraint when encountering her.  "So I was naked in your bed, and you didn't do anything?", asks Carly somewhat incredulously.  It's a moment that underlines how ridiculous the whole film is.

Also with: Don Johnson.

"The Other Woman" is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association Of America for mature thematic material, sexual references and language.  The film's running time is one hour and 53 minutes.  It feels like four hours.

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