“The Other Woman” Is a Miserable Affair

Other Woman

The Other Woman (Nick Cassavetes, 2014)

I wish I had something nice to say about The Other Woman, since it’s the only film I saw this week in a theater but, alas, I do not. It is a miserable affair, directed by Nick Cassavetes, son of John, who gave us such delightful independent film masterpieces as Shadows, Faces and A Woman Under the InfluenceThe Other Woman is everything that Cassavetes rebelled against in his own work: crass commercialism in service of a forgettable and offensively stupid story. The apple has fallen very far from the tree. Perhaps a better title for this awful misfire would be Women Under the Influence and Loving It.

Leslie Mann plays Kate King, who is married to wealthy entrepreneur and playboy Mark King (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, neither as interesting nor as good-looking as the film insists, and whose accent slips annoyingly in and out of place). He, unbeknownst to her, is carrying on a torrid affair with a successful New York attorney, Carly (Cameron Diaz), who has no idea he is married. Carly, in fact, thinks Mark may be “the one.” Until she travels to Connecticut to surprise him after he cancels a date, and discovers his wife. Gee, if it were that easy to track him down, one wonders how this man – who, it turns out, is a serial cheater – could escape exposure and detection in our social media-saturated world . . .

Anyway, after Carly flees the scene, Kate tracks her down and shows up at her office in Manhattan. Soon, these wronged women bond, become frenemies and, finally, friends. Before long, they discover that Mark has another mistress, Amber (a very dim Kate Upton, whose charms completely escape me). Despite the fact that Amber appears to have the IQ of a ferret, they convince her to join with them, and the three begin a campaign of retaliation against Mark. And – *spoiler alert* – they triumph! He gets his comeuppance. They get the money! They douse him with feminine hormones that make his nipples grow! They put hair remover in his shampoo that makes his hair fall out! They put laxatives in his drink that cause, as Mark puts it, a “fecal incident!” Ha, ha!

I will admit that I did, in fact, laugh once or twice (much to my chagrin, the “fecal incident” did force a few guffaws from my throat). But as the film wore on, I became increasingly morose. It was just so overwhelmingly disheartening. All of this female energy (the film is written by Melissa Stack) in service of a story that makes women look sad, desperate and man-obsessed. Even though she knows he’s a jerk, Mann’s Kate can’t help sleeping with Mark halfway through the film, so thrilled that he’s touched her again (and this is after the nipple incident – pay attention, guys, maybe enlarged male teats are the next big thing!). Even though I think the Bechtel Test is more interesting as an exercise rather than a valid way to evaluate films and their intent, I kept wondering how this movie would fare in that system. Yes, there are more than two women, which is good, but their entire existence and bonding is predicated on their shared hatred of a single man. They have nothing in common beyond that. And – since this is meant to be a raucous comedy – they often do very dumb things for a laugh. The portrait this movie paints of modern women is desolate, indeed.

So whatever mirth I experienced through the first half of the film began to sour, and soon I could only taste the curdle. The audience I was with seemed to be having a good time, overall, so maybe you will, too. Or you could go see Captain America: The Winter Soldier again, to keep it on top of the box office for one more weekend. That film, in spite of all of its testosterone, has a main female character (only one, it is true) – Black Widow – with more of an internal life than all three of the “other women” combined.

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