Review: The Other Woman
It is a truth universally acknowledged that hot and wealthy New York men do not make loyal mates. The moment a heroine on screen realizes that the foxy businessman of her dreams is a cheater is never an easy one, and it often ends in divorces, or for the unlucky ones, a nervous breakdown and years of expensive therapy. But what would happen if that woman had the chance at sweet revenge—and came out victorious? The fantasy comes alive in The Other Woman, a female-oriented comedy of a darker strain than the flouncy chick flick of yesteryear, in the form of three women uniting on a quest to conquer the womanizer who did them wrong.
The clever diva of the group is Carly Whitten (romcom queen Cameron Diaz), a New York attorney. She has her own office, a stunning apartment, and looks really good in black pencil skirts—the only thing missing in her life is, duh, a husband! In the film’s opening montage, we watch her come down with a bad case of infatuation with the corporate hottie Mark King (Nikolaj Coster-Waldeau), who has her thoroughly convinced that their relationship is serious. But on the night he’s scheduled to meet Carly’s father (Don Johnson), a leathery lothario with a penchant for much younger women, a “pipe breaks” in Mark’s Connecticut home and he must cancel. Being an overachiever by nature, Carly heads out to Connecticut with a sexy surprise in mind for Mark. But the surprise turns to trauma when the front door is opened by Mark’s wife, Kate (Leslie Mann), who finds Carly dressed as a plumber-seductress. The next day, Kate shows up to Carly’s office, clumsily yanking the leash of a Great Dane that greatly resembles an anorexic cow, and begging for answers from her husband’s high-power mistress.
They’re an unlikely pair, but Kate’s bubbly and sweet naiveté somehow goes nicely with Carly’s acerbic cynicism. Carly offers sobering wisdom about relationships over drinks (e.g. “Monogamy is not natural”), and once the intoxication of jealousy wears off, the two become pals. The pair then go spying in Miami to discover Mark’s other lover, Amber (played by Sports Illustrated model Kate Upton, in her most substantial role to date), who has a slamming bod but lacks the wit of the other girls. She joins in their vendetta, which involves a Lysistrata-like sex ban for Mark.
With the introduction of Amber, the film develops a sort of contradictory appeal. On one hand, its intended audience seems to be women who have felt the anguish of a bad relationship. The girls-only schadenfreude is palpable when Kate hands an unknowing Mark his morning health shake filled with estrogen, and he experiences symptoms similar to a girl on her first week of birth control (“Maybe you’re just bloated,” Kate comments). But ample shots of Kate Upton in a bikini seem to gear the film toward a male crowd of moviegoers. (Other audience pulls: Nicki Minaj as an office secretary, and of course that sexy Great Dane.)
Director Nick Cassavetes is still best known for The Notebook (04), and with a movie about a philanderer’s fall from glory, he adds another improbable girl-fantasy to his repertoire. (For a more realistic and better-written scenario of how this story might play out for the man, watch The Wolf of Wall Street; for the wife, Blue Jasmine.) In its portrayal of female friendship, the film relies on dated clichés: dress-up in Carly’s walk-in closet, drunken binges on Reddi-wip (these days, we binge on organic foods). At least the film is truer than most comedies starring women, in that it calls into question whether finding the perfect man is really the be-all and end-all of life. It seems, lately, that movies about friendship are closer to girls’ hearts than pure romances. The sad thing is, I doubt that the trio would have become friends in the first place: in reality, the contagion of boy-related jealousy between competitive women is extremely hard to cure. But in the name of sisterhood, it’s always worth a try, and The Other Woman is a positive step toward peace among the ladies.