A tonal mess from start to finish, the film never reaches its clear aspirations to transcend the tropes of chick flicks.
BY RYAN MILOWICKI
Right from the get-go, it is very clear that The Other Woman aspires to be more than the annual chick-flick comedy romp. And the premise lends itself very well to that, discussing infidelity, the pitfalls of marriage and long relationships, as well as the unrelenting passage of time. But as the film went on, the slapstick-esque and archetype-enforcing tone was extraordinarily off-putting to me, leaving more of a sour taste in my mouth than hearty laughter.
Such is the fate for The Other Woman, as it makes the age-old confusion of “goofy” for funny, all in sacrifice of meaningful character development. In doing so, the film vacates its claim to being a comedy with heart and substance, forcing me to grade it as a piece of escapist and for-laughs-only comedy. And at the end of the day, the movie just isn’t that funny.
When Carly (Cameron Diaz) finds out embarrassingly that Mark (Game of Thrones’ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), the man she’s been dating, is married, she reluctantly teams up with his wife Kate (Leslie Mann) to exact revenge. Throw in another attractive mistress (Kate Upton), and a team of “the weirdest friends”assemble and concoct a plan to make Mark pay for the emotional pain he has inflicted on the trio.
Right off the bat, this jumped out to me in my mind as a re-hash of 9 to 5, the table-turning comedy where Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Dolly Parton kidnap their boss to make him change his sexist behavior and policy in the office. When I made this connection, I was actually excited, because the 1980 comedy has some very poignant commentary on the contemporary condition of women. Had The Other Woman followed this same pattern of seamlessly blending comedy with social commentary, I probably would have enjoyed it much more thoroughly.
But that’s just the problem. Despite the presumably high emotional tension, I never felt that anything major was at stake for the protagonists. I had a difficult time empathizing with their plights when the movie bombarded me with gags including the messy aftereffects of a surreptitiously-placed laxative and a dog’s rather large testicles. You read that right. I half expected an Adam Sandler cameo, but that’s beside the point. There’s nothing wrong with a silly joke here or there, but when it’s the only way to try and muster up some laughs, the story takes a severe hit because of it.
The main cause of my distaste with the humor was the performance of the leads. Mann and Diaz are both over 40 now, but there were plenty of moments where I believe that they were acting at most half their age. When Diaz says “If I let you in, we’re not going to drink Cosmos and braid each other’s hair,” I interpreted this as a positive sign that the movie was going to take itself serious for a moment and deliver a much-needed emotional exchange. However, the scene quickly devolves into a drunken montage of the two women playing dress-up and consuming many alcoholic beverages. I suppose there are two ways to handle mid-life romantic crises, so you’ll have to forgive me for hoping that the mature adult approach would triumph over behaving like teenagers.
Now I know what you’re thinking. “That’s a double standard! Those Hangover guys are just as immature, and everybody is fine with those movies!” First of all, the second and third Hangover movies were atrocious. And secondly, The Hangover (although ostensibly about marriage as well) never attempts to comment on anything remotely as serious as failing marriages. I truly believe that The Other Woman wanted very much to transcend this mindless form of entertainment and make some worthwhile observations about sexual behavior and romance as a whole. But comedic drunkenness, scatological humor, and rampant childish behavior from the leads bog everything down.
The supporting cast doesn’t help out to much either, only adding to the very weird vibes that permeate the proceedings. Coster-Waldau sports a very poor American accent throughout, and his antics are hyperbolized so much that he becomes an utterly unsympathetic caricature. Upton doesn’t exactly step out of her comfort zone in playing the ditzy blonde oozing sex appeal but not exactly exerting her mental faculties. Nicki Minaj plays a secretary who offers Diaz some very hedonistic advice throughout, creating another bizarre instance of mixed tonal messages. And most notable of all, Miami Vice‘s own Don Johnson plays a small role as Diaz’s father who cavorts with women a third of his age and does little to espouse monogamy.
Did I laugh? Yes, more than a few times. But only at moments which understood the meaning of timing and subtlety. The feeble attempts to create a 100-minute cackle-along fest were lost on me and all but the staunchest Cameron Diaz fans in the audience. I hoped for a film exploring empowerment, justice, and the limits of revenge. But what I got were a bunch of lazy archetypes, plot conveniences to make the man as villainous as possible, and mean-spirited pranks which ended up being rewarded instead of morally questioned and mediated. I guess we all just have to buckle up and keep riding through this current phase of Cameron Diaz’s career. Following these immature turns in Bad Teacher and The Other Woman, I have a hunch that we can expect about the same in Sex Tape.
RYAN’s RATING: 1.5 Stars out of 4