Cast: Leslie Mann (Kate King), Cameron Diaz (Carly), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Mark King), Kate Upton (Amber), Nicki Minaj (Lydia), Taylor Kinney (Phil), Don Johnson (Frank)
- – - – - – - – - – -
The Other Woman is not what I expected it would be. Meaning, it’s not awful. Instead, it’s a mostly enjoyable — sometimes smart, sometimes hilarious, and only about 20% cringe-worthy — revenge comedy starring two actresses whose work I’ve found to be hit or miss in the past. Thankfully this time, both Mann and Diaz brought their A game and saved this film from being a total disaster.
Diaz plays Carly, a high-powered New York attorney, who’s in the midst of being swept off of her feet by Mark (Jaime Lannister himself). The film opens with a montage of their eight-week relationship, and — like Carly — we see no evidence of anything being amiss with her new man. Until we (and Carly) learn that he’s actually married to Kate (Mann). D’oh.
It was at this early point in the film that I drew upon the real dating experience of my friends and had to shoot a raised eyebrow at the screen. Because every single person I know has mercilessly Googled the people they’re dating. So are we to believe that this sharp, educated woman has not even performed the most basic of background checks on this guy in the year 2014? That was “Hmm Moment #1″ for me.
“Hmm Moment #2″ came shortly thereafter, when Kate and Mark share a “typical married couple” morning, until Mark asks Kate to sign a bunch of papers and she obliges — despite complaining out loud that she has no idea what she’s reading. Now, if Kate was meant to be a thoroughly idiotic character, that would be one thing. But then we also learn that Kate is the mastermind behind some of Mark’s startup businesses. So… she can come up with multimillion-dollar concepts but can NOT even remotely understand a few pages of legalese? M’kay…
Whatever, though, right? This is meant to be a comedy, not real life. So let’s keep rolling with it. Next, Carly and Kate end up meeting, and Kate eventually grows wise to Mark’s cheating ways. But she’s been with Mark for a long, long time and she’s sacrificed a lot for their marriage. So she feels like she needs some answers before she confronts (or leaves) her husband, and the only person who can really provide her with those answers is Carly.
Here are two things I thought director Nick Cassavetes (The Notebook, My Sister’s Keeper) and first-time screenwriter Melissa Stack handled well: 1) how Carly never comes off as someone we should hate, and 2) how believable the eventual friendship between Kate and Carly was. You can’t really have the second without the first, and it’s crystal-clear that Carly is no home-wrecker. She would not have gotten involved with Mark had she known he was married. Despite the icy vibe she gives off, Carly can’t help but feel sorry for Kate and reluctantly agrees to fill her in on the affair.
One thing I did not think Cassavetes handled well was how that key sequence, and many others, were set to girly pop songs. How dare he tarnish “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” by playing it over a montage of two fortysomethings getting drunk, talking about lingerie and generally acting like they’re 16? Cyndi Lauper is sacred territory, dear sir.
So after their night of shoe-closet debauchery, Kate and Carly have formed something of a bond. Each understands where the other is coming from, and Carly is willing to help Kate spy on Mark when they discover there’s yet another mistress. “He’s cheating on both of us!” is the battle cry. And to pour salt in the would, he’s cheating on them with Amber (Upton), a much, much younger bodacious bikini babe.
But guess what? Amber may be dumb as hell, but she’s sweet. And so when Kate and Carly inform her of Mark’s nasty ways, they join forces to try and bring him down once and for all. And that’s where those papers Kate signed come back into play.
Throughout all of the story I’ve recapped thus far, the funny outweighed the stupid. But then the film took a turn into dog poop, man-boobs and explosive diarrhea territory, and it was all too much. I mean really, WHY? If you’ve been reading my reviews for any length of time then you know that I HATE gross-out gags, especially when they involve toilet humor in the most literal sense. Was this Stack’s way of “throwing something in for the guys”? And did I just totally insult guys by assuming they might think poop jokes are funny? If so, I apologize. But really, both Stack and Cassavetes should be apologizing to all of us for taking the movie so far off-course. The Other Woman could’ve been a great female-bonding comedy. Mann just puts it all out there, and she is a incredible comedic actress when given the right material. My problem was that I couldn’t bring myself to empathize with Kate as much as I should have because she was just too la-di-da and naive. Carly, on the other hand, had a much more believable personality, and I think Diaz is perfect in edgier roles like this one (and Bad Teacher).
Despite its unfortunate missteps, I’m pretty sure that if you see The Other Woman with a group of your best girlfriends, you’ll have a good time (and a lot to discuss afterward). If Stack and Cassavetes had dropped the potty humor and strengthened the themes of female bonding and empowerment, the film might’ve actually been compelling. But after just re-reviewing the list of 2014 movie releases to date, I can confidently say that there have been precisely zero strong “chick flick” options this year, so the pickings are pretty slim for girls’ night out. Hollywood, are you listening? This is called a market opportunity.
- – - – - – -
Redbox movies featuring the cast of The Other Woman: