The Other Woman Review: Goofy, Effervescent Fun

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Nick Cassavetes’ female revenge comedy doesn’t reach the empowering heights it wants to, but it’s still a fun time at the movies.

Positive female friendships are somewhat of a rarity in film these days. It seems audiences are more accustomed to watching women tear each other down instead of building each other up. A few exceptions have popped up in recent years–Bridesmaids, The Heat, Frances Ha, For a Good Time, Call…–but it’s still a concept that’s been largely absent from theaters.

Directed by Cassavetes (The Notebook) from a script by Melissa Stack, The Other Woman attempts to bond the unlikeliest group of ladies together. After high-powered lawyer Carly (Cameron Diaz) discovers her newest beau (Game of Thrones’ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is married, she ends up forming a strange friendship with his manic wife Kate (Leslie Mann). This pairing eventually turns into a threesome when Carly and Kate discover another lover named Amber, played by supermodel Kate Upton. Once the trio put their heads together, they start to come up with schemes to take this philandering Lothario down.

Here’s the good news: Mann and Diaz have fantastic comedic chemistry. The scenes between Kate and Carly play fast and loose, often giving off an air of improvisation. Mann, in particular, has a great knack for physical comedy that suits her character’s frenzied antics well. Upton is game to join in on the fun, but it’s pretty clear she’s just playing an altered version of herself–not that anyone’s complaining.

Here’s the bad news: The film often tries to be more than it is. Had Cassavetes gone in a more self-aware direction, it would be easy to write off The Other Woman as a bit of campy entertainment. Instead, we get overtly cheesy scenes like the one in which Kate dramatically throws her wedding rings into the ocean, and Carly and Amber rush to comfort her. If the film is so concerned with portraying female friendship in a positive light, perhaps it should have worried less about the group hugs, and more about the number of times the words “slut” and “whore” were used throughout the script.

Additionally, while a good chunk of the humor relies on the cleverness of the performances, there are too many scenes that feel like cheap grabs for a laugh. It’s hard not to wince when Kate’s dog takes a dump in Carly’s apartment, and the turds that fall on the floor are obviously CGI. There’s also another bathroom scene that I won’t get into here, but let’s just say you’ll view Thrones‘ Jaime Lannister in a whole new light.

Luckily, the film has just enough charm to hold you over for its near two-hour runtime. Diaz and Mann are certainly no strangers to the comedy genre, and are clearly having a blast palling around with each other. Their effortless back-and-forth made me think that their characters’ twisted relationship could actually be possible. Perhaps it could, and perhaps Hollywood will eventually realize the value of female friendship over catfights. One can only hope. Grade: B-

 

By Mike Papirmeister

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