The Other Woman is that rare film that will leave discerning audiences wondering if the filmmakers consciously set out to utilize every previously-used and abused cliché in the genre they could think of in order to crank out a film that was 100% unoriginal and predictable from start to finish. The movie puts its dumbed-down, one-note characters through one preposterous gag set-up after another in the hope that you won’t tire of the pratfalls and hijinks or catch on to the fact that you’ve seen all this before, and seen it done a whole lot more memorably and entertainingly.
Cameron Diaz plays Carly, a single, career-minded Manhattanite who keeps relationships and men under control through a set of self-imposed rules and restrictions — never refers to them by their real names, never dates just one at a time, etc. But when audiences meet Carly, she’s apparently met the man she’s going to break all her rules for in Mark King (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), whose good looks, charm, and ever-ready libido have her ready to give him — and monogamy — a serious try. She’s even ready to take the huge step of introducing her to family; namely, her 5-time divorcé dad and personal relationship cautionary tale, Frank (Don Johnson).
An unannounced visit to Mark’s home in Connecticut, however, derails her hopes, as she’s greeted at the door by Mark’s wife Kate (Leslie Mann), who Carly, of course, had no idea even existed. Instead of making a scene or demanding an explanation, Carly painfully and awkwardly gets herself out of there, planning to never speak to Mark again. But Kate tracks her down and, once she confirms her suspicions about Mark’s infidelity, basically melts down emotionally and attaches herself to Carly, seeing her husband’s mistress as the only woman outside of her domesticated existence who could possibly relate to her situation. The two women — strong, independent, assertive Carly and frazzled, whiny, and weepy Kate — are as opposite as opposite could be, but after a alcohol-facilitated bonding session the two agree to not hate each other, and Carly reluctantly agrees to helping Kate find a way to deal with Mark.
Only things just aren’t that simple. The two new besties quickly learn that they’re not the only ones being hoodwinked, as they discover that Mark has been stepping out on them both with Amber (Kate Upton), who thinks Mark’s wife is a sex-withholding witch on the verge of divorcing him. The “plot” thickens!
Once the trio of women all get on the same page regarding the lies they’ve been told, they decide they’re going to take Mark down by taking away the one thing he seems to genuinely care about — his money — and make his life a living hell along the way, as only scorned women with imagination can.
How much you enjoy this film will depend entirely on just how many long you can stand to watch Leslie Mann’s histrionics or how many times you can see Cameron Diaz fall on her butt and still find it funny, because there’s not a whole lot else here. Director Nick Cassavetes (The Notebook) seems content to let his two female leads fall back on tropes and gimmicks they’ve used successfully in previous films in order to move things along here: Mann basically recycles her act from The Change-Up, Knocked Up, and This is 40, while Diaz reaches back in her filmography to her There’s Something About Mary and The Sweetest Thing days to deliver most of the physical comedy the script hands her. Some credit is due to Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who makes a game effort at stepping away from the fantasy trappings of Game of Thrones to play the heel in these proceedings. His is the biggest leap away from type among all the performers here, and it has nothing to do with the film’s modern setting. It’s all about depth and complexity: his GoT character of Jaime Lannister has plenty, while his character here, like every other character in this sorry excuse for a script, has none.
And what of Kate Upton, who prior to this has made all of two film appearances, in 2011’s Tower Heist and 2012’s The Three Stooges? Well, again, Cassavetes lets her fall back on what’s she’s done well in the past: look good in a bikini. Her character comes off as almost an afterthought, but the casting of Upton is as deliberate as it gets. After all, they needed someone who could credibly make Diaz self-conscious about her own bod in a two-piece. Upton doesn’t show she’s capable of much here, but she certainly does do that just by standing up from a beach chair. Diaz’s reaction to that particular sight is one of the film’s few memorably funny moments.
The sad truth about The Other Woman is that all of these performers are simply above taking part in this kind of drivel. Diaz has proven her acting chops time and again in serious work, and Coster-Waldau proves them time and again with each new season of Game of Thrones. Even Leslie Mann is slumming here, as her husband Judd Apatow can crank out funnier and more thoughtful material for her on his worst day. The payday for everyone involved better have come up front and not be one of those “back-end” deals that Diaz made famous when she walked away with $42 million after Bad Teacher broke the bank at the box office in 2011, because this one has “bomb” stenciled in bold, black letters all over it.
Put it another way. This film’s best gag involves laxatives, a frighteningly loud trip to a men’s room stall, and the leading man having to painfully don a pair of skinny jeans in the aftermath of the “fecal incident.” How excited does THAT get you to buy your tickets in advance?
Score: 1 out of 5
The Other Woman
Starring Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, Kate Upton, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Nikki Minaj, Taylor Kinney and Don Johnson. Directed by Nick Cassavetes.
Running Time: 109 minutes
Rated PG-13 on appeal for mature thematic material, sexual references and language.
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