April 25, 2014

The Other Woman

We can make it through this movie,
if we just stick together.

Grade: C –
Director: Nick Cassavetes
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, Kate Upton, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Don Johnson, Taylor Kinney and Nicki Minaj
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hr. 49 min.

Buttressing once again the axiom that the apple often does fall far from the tree, director Nick Cassavetes (son of John Cassavetes, a pioneer of American independent filmmaking) somehow conceives a movie exalting female empowerment that actually furthers the opposite aims with The Other Woman.

Want to conjure sympathy for the wife of a cheating husband? Don’t make her a grating, borderline psychopath. Want to conjure sympathy for the unwitting mistress who feels equally used by this two-timer? Don’t make her a prickly urbanite who is callous toward the feelings of the aggrieved spouse just because the mistress was, in fact, unwitting. Want to make a character played by Kate Upton into a three-dimensional person? Don’t make repeated blonde dumbbell jokes and refer to her at one point as ‘The Boobs.’ Thankfully, Upton’s vacuous acting is barely noticeable when juxtaposed against the rest of this pervasively poor film—good for her, bad for the rest of us.

Carly Whitten (Cameron Diaz) is a leggy, fashion-conscious, Columbia-educated Manhattan lawyer (right…) with an assistant who looks, talks and dresses like Nicki Minaj (Nicki Minaj). Carly also has Mark (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), the boyfriend of her dreams until the night Carly dresses like a sexy plumber to surprise Mark at his Connecticut home, only to have Kate (Leslie Mann), Mark’s wife, answer the door. Carly scampers away, content to chalk this up as another bad romantic episode in her life and never see Mark or Kate ever again (though, Carly apparently keeps Mark in her phone contacts list since his name continues popping up every time he calls or texts her the rest of the film). However, Kate melts down and, her mascara perpetually smeared, tracks Carly down to her job and apartment. Her purpose isn’t angry confrontation, but instead some badly enunciated notion of connecting with her husband via getting repeatedly drunk with his erstwhile mistress.

Anyone suffering from Leslie Mann overload from just her Judd Apatow offerings should know that The Other Woman is pure, uncut Mann in all her uneven, hit-and-miss zaniness. For every gag that works, there are a baker’s dozen that fall flat and last way too long.

As Kate and Carly embark on a college-appropriate revenge plot involving Nair in the shampoo bottle, laxative in the whiskey and estrogen in the morning smoothie, they discover that Mark has moved on to Amber (Upton), a younger, curvier edition. That leads to some admittedly amusing moments when Carly realizes that she has become not just the other woman, but also the older one.

The three would-be foes join forces to prolong the plot and exact inevitable comeuppance. But with Cassavetes falling back on endless pratfalls and other sight gags like Mann peeing in an open bathroom (her go-to move) and a scatological bathroom sendup involving Mark more befitting a Farrelly brothers farce, the only thing more insulting than the single-cell humor are the clumsy attempts as “meaning” and “emotion.” A maudlin montage involving Kate tossing her wedding ring into the ocean and all three woman cozying together on the beach feels like it was lifted from an entirely different (albeit equally bad) movie.

There’s discernable chemistry between Mann and Diaz that would work well outside this unholy mélange of 9 to 5, The First Wives Club, and John Tucker Must Die, scrubbed of any residual wit, charm and purpose. Forget The Other Woman—this duo needs other material.

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