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Movie Review: 'The Other Woman' (2014)

20th Century Fox

Chaotic mischief is the name of the game in director Nick Cassavetes latest. “The Other Woman” is a female empowerment film without any real empowerment. It manages to play its punchline briefly before stalling out. After all, audiences have seen this storyline before. A cad gets caught, and the women team up for revenge (i.e., “John Tucker Must Die”). The hook in this foray is that the women become friends. Or at least that is what the trailer implies.

The plot of “The Other Woman” is relatively straightforward. When the uptight Kate (Leslie Mann) learns that Carly (Cameron Diaz) has unwittingly been carrying on an affair with her husband (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), she desperately clings to her, hoping to learn why her husband cheated. The selling feature of the unexpected duo's growing friendship is the linchpin of the trailer. In the actual movie, it hardly comes to fruition.

As Kate busily fixates on Carly, it is clear the feeling is unrequited, and there is no understanding as to why that really changes. There are no quiet moments of reflection where Carly (Diaz) responds with mutual friendliness, which is honestly understandable considering who Kate is.

Kate (Mann) never grows from the irrationally crazed mess she is when Carly first meets her. The whole storyline is a wash, rinse and repeat of Kate crying about her circumstances, getting drunk with Carly, and stalking her husband with no concrete objective.

Where Diaz’s earlier film “The Sweetest Thing” captured the nuances of female friendship, “The Other Woman” makes a mockery of it. The characters in “The Other Woman” are thrown together due to a shared circumstance. Sadly, the ensuing positive of them sharing a blossoming friendship seems more of a contrived oddity than anything that feels genuine. To even call what they share by the end of the movie a friendship is entirely disingenuous. There is no give and take.

Kate simply takes the whole time. Making matters worse is the bold dissimilarity between the two main characters, which is never played for laughs. Diaz never gets to play the straight woman to Mann’s outrageous antics. She puts out the fires and not much else. There is no friction, and the duo surprisingly lacks any cohesive balance as a screen pairing, which drastically damages “The Other Woman.”

It does not help the script that all of the characters represent a quintessential stereotype that is exploited as the central running joke in “The Other Woman.” For example, Carly is the tough-nosed businesswoman who does not have time for men, except in the casual sense, and the cliches do not stop there.

Kate is the neurotic, “1-percenter” housewife. Amber (Kate Upton) is the “young, naive blonde.” Mark is the deplorable womanizing scam artist. There is no depth to any of these caricatures to help ease the transition in between comic lulls. They simply exist to be made fun of, to laugh at, instead of with.

As “The Other Woman” loses focus on the element of women not turning against one another in the infidelity scandal, it turns to the women getting even. Director Nick Cassavetes loses his grip on a filmmaking level as scenes veer out of any sense of comedic rhythm with gags that are not funny, to begin with continuing ad nauseam. The giant dog (why is a big dog funny?) and Kate’s anxious outbursts are among the biggest offenders.

Another issue is the lack of a backing soundtrack during scenes of dialogue, only to have an abounding number of music montages that add nothing to the overall narrative and instead feel like vapid time-fillers. Cassavetes, whose dramatic projects have been spectacular (“The Notebook” anyone?), falters with the comedic elements necessary to fuel this one.

Cameron Diaz and Leslie Mann have had better material to work with script-wise though, they do their best with what they are given. In the end, the film’s redemption lies with the charismatic performance of “Game of Thrones” star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and the likable turn of Taylor Kinney (“The Forest”) in a brief appearance.

Despite the movie being rather hackneyed, the revenge angle is gratifying in the final showdown. “The Other Woman” is far from complicated, thinly entertaining, and most of all, a wasted opportunity. Rating: 6.2/10

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