Director: Nick Cassavetes
Cast: Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Kate Upton, Taylor Kinney, Nicki Minaj
RunTime: 1 hr 49 mins
Rating: PG13 (Sexual References and Coarse Language)
Released By: 20th Century Fox
Opening Day: 17 April 2014
Synopsis: Carly (Cameron Diaz) discovers her new boyfriend Mark (Game of Thrones' Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is a fraud – and worse – when she accidentally meets his wife, Kate (Leslie Mann). Carly suddenly finds herself comforting Kate, and their unlikely friendship solidifies when they realize that Mark is cheating on both of them with yet another “other woman,” Amber (Kate Upton). The three women join forces plotting an outrageous plan for revenge.
Female-centric comedies seem to be the hottest properties on the Hollywood studio lot after the unexpected success of ‘Bridesmaids’ and ‘The Heat’, and ‘The Other Woman’ is yet another example of one such high-concept movie. Beginning with Cameron Diaz’s high-powered New York lawyer Carly, it moves on to introduce Leslie Mann’s Connecticut-based homemaker Kate and finally ‘Sports Illustrated’ cover girl Kate Upton’s busty bombshell Amber as three women who are played by the same guy, Mark (Nikolai Coster-Waldau), and subsequently team up to get revenge on their cheating husband/ boyfriend.
As the billing on the poster should tell you, the focus of newcomer Melissa Stack’s screenplay is all on the women, and if you’ve seen ‘The First Wives Club’ starring Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn and Bette Midler, this is pretty much a spiritual companion but raunchier. Except for the sight of Upton in a tiny white bikini running slo-mo along the beach, this chick flick revenge comedy is squarely for the ladies, so just as how frat-boy comedies make some female audiences squirm, we suspect some male members of the audience may similarly find themselves more than a little uncomfortable with the display of ‘Girl Power’ on screen.
But hey, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, though to be fair, getting back isn’t the first instinctive reaction the women in this movie jump at. Instead, a good part of the first half plays as female bonding as Carly becomes an unlikely confidante to Kate. Yes, whereas the conventional Hollywood comedy would have the wife going at the mistress, this one turns that cliché on its head by having the two develop an unlikely friendship over tequila shots, designer dress-ups and stay-overs - although to be fair, Carly didn’t actually know that the man that she had been dating, falling in love, and having sex with was married.
Nick Cassavates of ‘The Notebook’ is at the helm here, his first at a chick flick or rom-com for that matter, and he tries to balance the dialogue-heavy first half with some bits of physical comedy mostly from Mann’s needy, clingy and slightly neurotic routine. From the moment she turns up unexpected at Diaz’s office, Mann dials up the klutziness, with her Great Dane in tow further adding to the moments of comic relief. But look past these obvious attempts at humour and you’ll find a much more poignant emotional core - in Mann’s character, we see a loving wife who has centred her life upon that of her husband and the pain that the discovery of his infidelity brings; while through Diaz, we see a single woman cast alone from the lies of her partner.
Diaz and Mann have great chemistry with each other, and it shows in every scene that they share together. While the two women may seem opposites at the start, there is something absolutely complementary in Diaz’s hard-boiled chick act and Mann’s ditzy getup that makes for a particularly interesting, lively, and ultimately heartfelt exchange. The credit for that is also Stack’s, whose first produced work is sharper and more perceptive than the usual Hollywood shtick. And Cassavates holds it all together by ensuring that his actors never overplay their respective dilemmas, instead keeping their emotions grounded in some form of reality.
Things however resolve themselves along a much more conventional Hollywood route with the entry of Kate’s smouldering brother Phil (Taylor Kinney) whom Carly immediately sparks to, as well as Amber who is called on to be little else than a bimbo in the movie. By the time it becomes clear that Mark is also a swindler who has been using his wife’s name to run some sham in the Bahamas, you know that his comeuppance will come in some easy crowd-pleasing manner. Indeed, Cassavates doesn’t bother to find any decency in Mark, and that bias while certainly spun out of narrative convenience robs the movie of being and saying something more about love and the marriage.
Whether because it doesn’t aspire to or whether it has tried but fails to do so is not clear, though ‘The Other Woman’ doesn’t offer the same kind of big laughs which ‘Bridesmaids’ and ‘The Heat’ do. There is physical comedy all right, but these don’t go far beyond the usual pratfalls and routines which Hollywood comedies oft resort to; rather, this chick flick works better at portraying its message of female empowerment, of taking charge of one’s life, of making life-changing decisions and of standing up on one’s own feet no matter how tough it may be. As written by a woman, this brand of modern-day feminism isn’t exactly new, but it is still refreshing to watch.
(Not your conventional Hollywood rom-com, this chick flick revenge comedy built on a message of female empowerment coasts on the energy and chemistry of its female stars)
Review by Gabriel Chong