The fact that audiences still go – often in large numbers as shown by the success of Bridesmaids, the Judd Apatow comedies and, heaven forbid, anything with Adam Sandler – isn’t necessarily an indication that this is what audiences want, as several Hollywood execs must assume, it’s what audiences have settled for. It’s a case of diminished expectations; we settle for it because there’s rarely anything else. The real downer is there is now a whole generation of movie-goers who have never known or seen anything different. When concepts are lame, situations appear like extensions of TV and the f-bomb is continually used in lieu of a clever punch line – and execs think this is all perfectly fine as long as it turns a profit – the adult movie comedy will remain in bad shape. Generally speaking.
How refreshing, then, that The Other Woman, as directed by Nick Cassavetes, at least tries to up the ante a little. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its problems, but knowing what movie-goers expect to see and hear, the good news is that now and again there are times when The Other Woman actually hits its target.
The concept is an easy one; Mark (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is a serial adulterer. He cheats on his wife, Kate (Leslie Mann), then cheats on his mistress with another mistress. When Carly (Cameron Diaz) discovers her boyfriend is actually married, she cuts the relationship, only to discover that he was cheating on her with Amber (Kate Upton). Rather than let him get away with it, the three woman join forces to extract revenge. It’s Girl Power in action.
The discovery is first made when Diaz’s character makes an unexpected visit to Mark’s home dressed as a slutty plumber – cleavage, short skirt, heels and a plunger – only to have the door answered by Mark’s wife. “Is this a kind of stripper-gram, or something?” Kate asks, somewhat confused.
Realizing that the husband has been lying about what he does with his free time, the wife and mistress meet to discuss. “You had sex with my husband fifty times?” asks the wife. “You mean he’s not training for the marathon?”
After almost an hour of basic comedic shenanigans – putting hair remover in his shampoo, hormones in his health drinks, laxatives in his cocktails and washing the toothbrush in the toilet – the other mistress arrives. She’s the clueless, buxom, sun tanned, fantasy blonde, or as Carly describes her: “The clichéd version of every waking wife’s nightmare.”
Much of what makes The Other Woman work is Leslie Mann. For some, her little-girl-lost mannerisms and dreamy delivery may be an acquired taste – in truth, a little goes a long way – but she is naturally funny with a comedic style that would have worked in vaudeville and the early days of sketch TV. Diaz is good at being the take-charge type, and even though Kate Upton shows no acting chops whatsoever, for obvious reasons, the Sports Illustrated swimsuit model physically fits the bill. As Mann’s Kate proclaims when Upton joins forces, “She brings up our boob average.” Plus, the good news is that the majority of laughs come from the occasional moment of snappy dialog that, despite the film’s overall adult theme, never resorts to an f-bomb for an easy laugh. Surprisingly, the film is relatively clean.
The Other Woman is a girls-night-out movie where the target audience is not going to worry whether logic is often absent or how is it that a man like Mark can be away from home for so long without the wife suspecting something, or that the women often talk as if they’re freshmen at college and not in their mid to late thirties; they’re there to share laughs at the obvious and cheer at the outcome. As comedy, it’s not great, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.
Looking like a less aggressive Denis Leary, Coster-Waldau’s Mark is the epitome of everything a woman will eventually hate about a man; he’s a scumbag without a conscience who deserves everything that’s coming to him. “We’re talking about maximum pain,” Diaz’s Carly insists. When Mann’s Kate bulks at the idea of what the women have in mind for her husband, Carly reminds the wife that: “Cheaters don’t change.” Be prepared for a chorus of agreement from all female members of the audience.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 109 Minutes Overall Rating: 6 (out of 10)