LOVE & OTHER IMPOSSIBLE PURSUITS aka THE OTHER WOMAN (2009)
Genre: Drama/Romance Director: Don Roos Cast: Natalie Portman, Scott Cohen, Charlie Tahan, Lauren Ambrose, Lisa Kudrow RunTime: 1 hr 42 mins Released By: Shaw Rating: M18 (Sexual Scenes) Official Website:
Opening Day: 14 April 2011
Synopsis: Screen legend Natalie Portman (BLACK SWAN, CLOSER) lights up the screen in this frank, funny, and heart-wrenching adaptation of bestselling author Ayelet Waldman’s novel about life, loss, and family. Emilia (Portman) is a Harvard law school graduate and a newlywed, having just married Jack (Scott Cohen, THE UNDERSTUDY), a high-powered New York lawyer, who was her boss firm. Unfortunately, her life takes an unexpected turn when Jack and Emilia lose their newborn daughter. Emilia struggles through her grief to connect with her new stepson William (Charlie Tahan, I AM LEGEND), but is finding it hard to connect with this precocious child. Emilia is also trying to overcome a long-standing rift in her relationship with her father caused by his infidelity. But perhaps the most difficult obstacle of all for Emilia is trying to cope with the constant interferences of her husband’s angry, jealous ex-wife, Carolyn (Lisa Kudrow, FRIENDS, ANALYZE THIS). Ultimately, Emilia’s and Charlie’s playful and sometimes tender exchanges help Emilia to open her heart. Can Emilia rediscover her own capacity for love in time to salvage her failing marriage, mend fences with her parents and build a family from the wreckage? Directed by Don Roos (OPPOSITE OF SEX) from his own screenplay, this tearful, terrific tale proves that even with a pursuit like love, nothing is impossible…
Natalie Portman winning an Oscar for Best Actress this year opened the door for older and more indie works she had done to find a new lease of life in theatrical releases, and so we have writer-director Don Roos' Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, a little drama completed two years ago before her huge award win featuring a cast full of relative unknowns, in an intimate tale about love and the dealing with loss, where she takes on the role as the third party who wedged into the life of a rich lawyer and doctor couple, and has to deal with the emotional baggage that comes along with it.
Based on the novel by Ayelet Waldman, the story cannot happen without the protagonist of high flying lawyer Emilia (Portman) and her married boss Jack (Scott Cohen) consciously entering into an extra marital affair with their eyes wide open and consequences known. Then comes an accidental baby, which led to Jack's divorce with wife Carolyn (Lisa Kudrow) and the resentment of their son William (Scott Cohen) over Emilia. They're all smart people - lawyers and doctors, but falling prey to the most basic of lustful human emotions to draw them into a complicated web of relationships that gets ploddingly unraveled and addressed through the course of the show. But this is most miserable as all of them have issues that have to be ironed out with one another, and if it can be deemed a success, translated this miserable existence of theirs into a tiring test of endurance. There's hardly a moment of bright sunshine as things spiral downwards and out of control, with temporal relief provided through an ending that of convenient reconciliation. There's Emilia trying to ovecome the grief of her recently deceased baby Isabel, the uneasy acceptance between Emilia and William (Charlie Tahan) with the usual stepson mistrust, the overbearing biological mother's presence in Carolyn stifling her son in almost every aspect of his life, Jack trying to keep things together thinking that an expanded family with two women and a kid in his life would be smooth sailing, and from nowhere comes the issue of Emilia's unhappiness with her father's infidelity - talk about like father like daughter.
There's enough exasperation to go around at each turn as the players all get their hands full with growing negativity, and unless you enjoy watching how a dysfunctional family embark on the road to self-destruction, it would be rather trying to sit through it if not for the charismatic presence of Natalie Portman, who glues the film together being almost in every scene. Her performance as the stressed out woman with so much emotional issues mostly of her own doing, makes her quite the sympathetic character in serious need of counselling sessions with a shrink, snapping at almost everyone so much as they were to utter a wrong word. The redeeming point is of course how the actress managed to play quite convincingly a mother who had lost her child, bearing in mind this was before her recent announcement in being a mom-to-be.
Scott Cohen and Charlie Tahan were rather bland, especially the latter as the child who possesses all the right moves in getting Emilia all riled up at every opportunity. I understand the need to probably make him adorable through his street smart or nerdy wisecracks, but Tahan made it all seem like he's reading from a script, rather than to act out his part out. As far as child actors go, Don Roos didn't quite manage to achieve the emotion he sought after from this kid. The only bright spark as far as supporting roles go, and I was actually rooting for more, is that of Lisa Kudrow's ex-wife character who never minced her words when up against either of the adulterous pair, always having statements laced with poison with venomous intent to insult, demean and belittle. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and I haven't seen Kudrow in such a fashion before, so kudos to her for pulling that off.
Love and Other Impossible Pursuits tried to bite off more than it can chew, and it shows through the various wafer thin subplots that make up the film, trying hard to hit the mark on themes like forgiveness and reconciliation. It would be impossible to tolerate the narrative, which intersperses with some jumps back in time just because flashbacks are hip, if not for the individual brilliance of Portman and Kudrow to breathe some life into a film that needed some major plot resustitation.