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Dustin's Review

The Other Woman  (2014)
2 Stars
Directed by Nick Cassavetes.
Cast: Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, Kate Upton, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Don Johnson, Nicki Minaj, Taylor Kinney, Alyshia Ochse, Victor Cruz, David Thornton.
2014 – 109 minutes
Rated: Rated PG-13 (for mature thematic material, sexual references and language).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, April 23, 2014.
In the not-so-grand tradition of 2005's "Crash" and 2013's "Frozen," "The Other Woman" has carbon-copied its title from another recent, otherwise unconnected movie, in this case the 2011 Natalie Portman-starring indie drama directed by Dons Roos. Because the name does not really make sense for this particular film—if anything, it should be called "The Other Women"—it is baffling why director Nick Cassavetes (2009's "My Sister's Keeper") and studio 20th Century Fox would go with a derivate moniker that was already used three years ago. This cosmetic annoyance notwithstanding, "The Other Woman" stands on its own and, at times, is enormously funny in an all-out belly-laugh way. The female-centric formula of bawdy humor intermingling with warm slice-of-life pathos is not new—the footprint left by 2011's hugely successful "Bridesmaids" is all over this project—but it is always welcome when done well. This particular entry is predictable in its plot progression and has several strained conflicts rearing their head, but there is also something positively empowering and inspired about Melissa K. Stack's script and the cast's game disposition.

Carly Whitten (Cameron Diaz) is a successful, independent NYC attorney not usually interested in long-term romantic commitments, but her opinion starts to change when she falls for the suave, down-to-earth Mark King (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). All is well until she makes a surprise trip out to his home in Connecticut and discovers Mark has a wife, gregarious homemaker Kate (Leslie Mann). Kate is devastated by the news, daunted at the thought of a life on her own when she has no job and has relied on her husband for so many years. With no one else to turn to, Kate latches onto Carly, the two of them gradually befriending each other in their shared experience of getting burned by a dishonest partner they only thought they knew. Were that not enough, Mark has a second mistress as well. Following him to the Hamptons, they meet the younger, knockout-gorgeous Amber (Kate Upton), whom they let in on her boyfriend's cheating ways. A newly formed trifecta, Carly, Kate and Amber set out to make Mark pay dearly for his indiscretions.

There is a fine line which director Nick Cassavetes must balance upon during "The Other Woman." The premise is such that, without the right care, these three women could come off looking desperate, petty and infantile, no better than the man who initially crossed them. By listening to their perspectives and situations, and then by revealing that Mark has sneakily involved Kate in his criminal investment schemes without her knowledge, helps to mostly avoid this threat. There are still the occasional contrivances, as when there is a brief falling-out where Kate sides with Mark over Carly when she knows full well what a liar he has been, but these come and go quickly.

Cameron Diaz, returning to lighthearted comedy after a captivating walk on the dark side with 2013's haunting, criminally misunderstood "The Counselor," is tailor-made for this genre. She is effortlessly watchable, naturally appealing, and not afraid to do whatever is needed to sell a joke. All of these components are in full force here, her Carly realizing at a certain point that Mark would no longer be worth her attention if not for her devotion to Kate's plight. As the talkative, initially-fragile-but-actually-strong Kate, Leslie Mann (2012's "This Is 40") is the scene-stealer of the ensemble, getting many of the heartiest laughs with her sharp improv skills and impeccably delivered comic timing. A scene where she hyperventilates and unsuccessfully tries to crack the floor-to-ceiling window of a skyscraper to get some fresh air is amusing, to be sure, but a scene where she and Carly get caught in a precarious position by a group of landscapers approaches a level of hilarity rarely achieved in modern film.

Unable to go toe-to-toe with her two more experienced co-stars, model-turned-actress Kate Upton (2012's "The Three Stooges") is every bit the eye candy intended, but she isn't entirely convincing in some of her line readings. Perhaps as a result of her limitations, the script does not make an effort in developing Amber as a character outside of her attraction to older guys. As the deceptive Mark, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (2013's "Mama") jumps head-first into his despicable character, the kind of guy who is outwardly charming to everyone around him but pathologically fraudulent. In her live-action feature debut, musician Nicki Minaj (2012's "Ice Age: Continental Drift") portrays Carly's sounding-board assistant Lydia. If she intends to do more acting, Minaj should work on her speaking voice, its nasal quality tending to sound overly whiny, but she otherwise equips herself well. Taylor Kinney (2012's "Zero Dark Thirty") has an engaging magnetism as Kate's handsome contractor brother, Phil, to whom Carly takes a shine. And Don Johnson (2012's "Django Unchained"), as Carly's five-times-divorced dad, Frank, is charming in an affable supporting turn.

Sunnily toned even when the material is dealing with serious issues about marriage, infidelity, relationships and sex, "The Other Woman" leaves plenty of time for some good, old-fashioned, "Girls Just Want to Have Fun"-on-the-soundtrack female empowerment. The toned-down PG-13 rating (the original restricted rating was appealed after cuts) is sometimes glaring—there is at least one clumsy overdub, and a lot of gnarly brown blood in a climactic scene—yet the heart of the picture and all of its interpersonal complications are kept safely intact. Pertly humored and touching in spots without becoming too soapy, the film's entertainment value, plain and simple, goes a long way in smoothing over its problem areas. "The Other Woman" isn't exactly original, but more often than not it is smart.
© 2014 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman