17 April 2014

Movie Review: The Other Woman (2014)


The Other Woman
2014, 109mins, 15
Director: Nick Cassavetes 
Writer: Melissa Stack 
Cast includes: Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, Kate Upton, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Don Johnson, Nicki Minaj 
UK Release Date: 23rd April 2014

It’s likely that director Nick Cassavetes believes “The Other Woman” to be an empowering mainstream comedy, a flick in which sisters really are doing it for themselves. The reality of the situation is different; the film an imbecilic and withered concoction of flat humour and creepy plotting. “The Other Woman” feels like a calculated attempt to offend audiences, particularly those of the fairer sex, at whom this celluloid dump has been unapologetically marketed. Its character choices and fixation with middle-class strife intensify the nausea, but ultimately it’s the witless writing that sinks the enterprise. Granted, no movie that features multiple poop gags, an impossibly gross Don Johnson subplot and a Nicki Minaj cameo has much of a chance, but a few solid rib-ticklers might just have made it bearable. Instead “The Other Woman” bungles even the easiest bursts of jesting, focusing on its overstretched narrative and deplorable consequences.

After several blissful months of courtship, Carly (Cameron Diaz) is disappointed to find boyfriend Mark (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) has a wife. Composing herself and happy to abandon the relationship, Carly is surprised when Mark’s spouse Kate (Leslie Mann) becomes insistent on forging a friendship, eager for advice as to how she should handle her husband’s infidelity. Initially reluctant, Carly eventually agrees to help Kate ascertain a degree of closure, but that only leads them to discover the presence of second mistress Amber (Kate Upton), a younger woman equally disgusted by Mark’s lechery. As a result the trio begin to plot revenge, dosing the cheat with hormone pills and hair-loss products, before moving their game to grander financial plateaus.

There was a time when Cameron Diaz was a livewire asset to any comedy, but that era has passed. Her only interesting work of late has involved squelching her genitals against a car windscreen in Ridley Scott’s deranged “The Counsellor”; the bread and butter of her career (frothy comedy) hasn’t yielded much of worth for some time. “The Other Woman” maintains the actress’ newfound adoration for mundane, non-event cinema, her benign work here a perfect encapsulation of every misfire leading up to it. It’s not just that she’s poor; Diaz seems totally static and unwilling to try, obviously aware of the script’s cruddy stature. She’s not bothered, and it doesn’t translate as laidback charisma, it’s more like the star popped an abundance of Prozac. On the other end of the spectrum Mann goes for broke, proving largely insufferable.  Her onscreen dynamics with Diaz and Coster-Waldau are cursedly artificial, but what’s less forgivable is the sheer volume she insists on raising. Mann doesn’t tell jokes in “The Other Woman”, she screeches them, over-playing every verbal and physical bit painfully. It’s a dire performance, highlighting the comedienne (who has been funny in the past) as one requiring of a tight directorial leash. Cassavetes isn’t fit for the job.

“The Other Woman” wastes no time establishing a sluggish pace and aimless tone, the third act is so scatter-shot it’s as if the final month of principal photography was wholly improvised. Cassavetes (most famously regarded for “The Notebook”) doesn’t provide much zip to the picture, but even the sharpest editorial hands might have struggled with such rancid material. The quips are mouldy, but the arcs and character constructs are worse. The people featured are abominable hypocrites, devoting embarrassing portions of their lives to distorting a dirtbag’s existence whilst seemingly preaching self-sufficiency and moral fibre. The result? A climax that incinerates the wellbeing of another human (both physically and mentally) whilst the girls steadfastly throw themselves headfirst into the arms of queasy male companions and capitalist ascendency. It’s an unsettling resolution that underlines the problems with mainstream pap aimed at young women (boys and money will still define your happiness -just not bad boys) and highlights the thoughtlessness inherent within its plot and corrupting message. “The Other Woman” doesn’t even offer the pleasure of a simple and gentle genre denouement. It’s insistently unsatisfactory and scarring until its final, borderline paedophilic frames.

Coster-Waldau competently sleazes around the feature; his continuing gameness almost redeeming some of the less egregious writing. I’m sure “The Other Woman” will keep his bank account buoyed whilst George R. Martin procrastinates over the culmination of those dratted fantasy novels everybody loves. On the other hand Kate Upton is religiously rejected throughout the feature, although based on what little dialogue she has that’s probably to our benefit. Kitty-kat cuteness and a continentally sized bust don’t a good actress make, the model firing off stilted lines with zero naturalism. The CGI monsters that Coster-Waldau encounters on “Game of Thrones” are probably less overtly fantastical than Upton. I assume the script originally offered her one-dimensional character at least a little more exposure. The subsequent footage was likely less than usable though.

Of course “The Other Woman” tries to engrave its surface with a perception of dramatic integrity, but these instances are ruined by fake performances, Cassavetes’ love of tiresome melodramatic ballads and the shimmering falsity of a high-end shampoo commercial. “The Other Woman” has a hollow look to match its soulless commercial aspirations. It’s a poisonous motion picture, devoid of giggles, resonance or even a slight hint of feminist continuity within its thematic DNA. All this and I haven’t even railed against the dang Nicki Minaj bits yet. Maybe give it a pass guys. 

A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2014