The most remarkable woman in The Other Woman is a Mann. Leslie Mann, specifically. After swiping scenes after scene in movie after movie (both inside and out of her husband Judd Apatow’s catalogue), the wickedly funny Mann finally receives a multi-faceted role that takes advantage of all the wonderful things she usually brings to a movie. Sadly, Mann’s latest “breakout” exists in a schizophrenic film that never matches the insightful humor and zany energy she musters throughout.
You wouldn’t know it by the marketing campaign – which focuses on Mann’s bankable (Cameron Diaz) and beautiful (Kate Upton) female co-stars – but The Other Woman centers around Mann’s character, Kate King. Kate lives the preppy catalogue dream. She lives in a Restoration Hardware home, shops among the other Stepford wives at Whole Foods Market, and complains to her chiseled, wealthy husband, Mark (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), that she probably has to go to “brain camp” because she can’t retain the trivial details of her vapid, empty days. Kate doesn’t realize she’s occupying a social coma until reality comes around and shakes her out of it.
That occurs when Carly Whitten (Diaz) knocks on Kate’s door. You see, Carly is sleeping with Mark, and has been for months. (“Gun to my head, probably 50 times,” Carly confesses to Kate when asked how many times she and Mark have screwed. Kate’s pricelessly incredulous response? “Don’t you have a job?!”) Carly had no idea Mark was married, and the women slowly bond over the fact that they both got played by the same sleazy man. Then they realize, in horror, that they aren’t the only ones.
An intelligent movie would have laser-focused on Kate and addressed how this seemingly put-together yuppy deals with the decimation of her picture-perfect existence. And director Nick Cassavettes – who has been genuinely interested in tangible human emotions in credible films like The Notebook, Unhook the Stars and My Sister’s Keeper (also with Diaz) – flirts with that path before allowing The Other Woman to devolve through silly pratfalls, sexist clichés and preposterous plotting. There’s an early scene in The Other Woman -- when Cassavetes and his cast still seemed invested – where Mann looks around at the manicured, polished suburban women in her posh grocery store and realizes she no longer fits into their clique. In fact, the look on her face conveys a shocking realization that this world isn’t real – an existence propped up by lies – and Kate probably was lying to herself for years just to maintain her membership in this desirable club.
Then Cassavetes slices through the introspection by including a scene where Kate’s enormous dog takes a shit on Carly’s apartment floor, and you wonder what type of movie The Other Woman wants to be.
Diaz is asked to keep it in one angry gear for the duration of The Other Woman. She’s mad that her relationship with Mark was a sham because she feels she has wasted precious time on a man who can’t deliver her happiness. She’s mad that she now has to babysit the blubbering mess that is Kate, even though the faux screenplay turns them into friends by the film’s halfway mark. And when The Other Woman introduces sunny, shapely supermodel Upton as Marks other “other mistress,” Diaz is mad that she’s no longer the hottest, youngest blonde in the story. There’s a legitimate reason for bringing Upton’s character, Amber, into the plot. However, once she’s on display, the movie stops trying to make sense, and Upton’s acting ability consists of looking outstanding in a bikini.
Melissa K. Stack gets credit for penning The Other Woman. She cooks up a decent concept, but isn’t sure where to go with it. Kate’s story, as mentioned, could have led to some heartfelt moments of empowering drama. The pairing of the deceived ladies also could have triggered a tightly-plotted revenge comedy… but by the time our three women are setting up an elaborate sting operation in the Bahamas, you glumly realize Cassavetes no longer has a firm grip on the steering wheel of this disjointed effort. Never mind the sexist, anti-feminist sentiments sprinkled throughout The Other Woman, which I really didn’t expect. Listen closely and drop your jaw when co-star Nicki Minaj asks Diaz why a pretty woman like her has to work so hard? And did Don Johnson, playing Diaz’s father, really tell his daughter to put on something slutty and go win back her man with sexual favors? Gross.
Thankfully, there’s Mann, who does everything in her power to make The Other Woman watchable. She’s an incredibly gifted physical comedian who wrings laughs out of such tired exercises as drunkenly climbing into a limo or sneaking around a beachside mansion to “spy” on one’s cheating husband. Mann is a whirling dervish of laughs, and she always remembers that there are emotions driving her character’s actions, so we invest in her overwhelming obstacles and small successes. Mann’s film career has faced obstacles. In a better world, she’d be getting parts earmarked for Diaz. Add The Other Woman to the comedienne’s lengthy highlight reel, and imagine how much better the industry would be if execs could figure out how best to use Mann’s multiple talents.