Monday, April 21, 2014

THE OTHER WOMAN

I do not own the above image. Copyright Twentieth Century Fox.  All Rights Reserved.

            Ladies: If you found out your husband was cheating on you when you thought he was on a business trip, what would you do?  A normal woman (like my wife) would perform a castration on that man’s wallet & genitalia.  If you’re screenwriter Melissa Stack and director Nick Cassavetes, you make a would-be comedy about three women seeking juvenile revenge.
            Carly Whitten (Diaz) has it all.  A great job with a personal assistant at a top law firm in NYC.  An apartment every law student dreams of.  And, most importantly, a successful man Mark who fulfills every want and desire.  One night, Carly arrives at Mark’s house to surprise him, only to be met at the door by Kate (Mann), Mark’s wife.  From there, Carly & Kate (slowly) join forces to get to the bottom of Mark’s deceitful ways, eventually being joined by mistress #3 Amber (Upton).
            THE OTHER WOMAN has a setup that, if in capable hands, could be amusing.  Unfortunately, Stack’s screenplay (her first) is a mess and Cassavetes has less talent in his entire body than his late father, John, had in his left pinky finger.  Stack makes the fatal error of letting the audience know by the end of the opening credits that Mark is a cheater.  Regardless of how a movie is marketed, THE OTHER WOMAN (or any movie for that matter) would be better served with a sense of surprise.  Instead, after a montage of Mark & Carly moments, we are treated to a scene of Kate in bed on the morning after one of Mark’s trysts with Carly.  All this leaves the audience impatiently waiting for the 12-15 minutes it takes for the two women to meet.
            Cassavetes’ lack of comic talent behind the camera is easiest to see in the scene where we meet THE OTHER WOMAN herself, Amber.  Making their way to Martha’s Vineyard in “comedic” fashion, Carly & Kate stake-out Mark & Amber behind some sand dunes.  Now, Cassavetes decides to alternate between binocular lens close-ups of Upton and medium shots of Mann looking at her.  During this sequence, Diaz is not on-screen but can be heard talking with Mann.  After about 30 seconds of this, Diaz is finally seen in a medium shot that shows her lazily half-sunbathing, half-posing for the camera instead of searching for Amber that I guess is supposed to be from Mann’s perspective.  While it does match the sequence of shots before it, the shot become the model of the failed bits of humor throughout the movie.  A better alternate shot would have been a wide shot showing Kate looking for Amber while Carly is fully laid out, soaking it all in.
Sure it’s not “Who’s on First?” in quality, but it would have been the funniest moment of the movie.  I’m not exaggerating; I sat stone-faced most of its 110 unfunny minutes.  I cringed when Carly tackled Kate while running after Amber.  I was bug-eyed when Carly helped Mark reenact the “instant diarrhea” scene from 3 NINJAS in a bar.  I was flabbergasted when the movie shifted to the Bahamas for the ridiculously complicated third act.  Finally, I just held my head in my hands, watching in horror as the movie finally reached its climax in cheap fashion.
Mann tries her best for about an hour to make the movie tolerable.  But the material is so terrible, I can’t help but feel (in as little of a sexist manner as I possibly can) that Mann never went over her lines with her husband Judd Apatow, a man who knows unfunny when he sees it.  Upton could be watchable in a movie with the director of someone like Apatow.  But in Cassavetes’ hands she’s an injured puppy on the Beltway, just hopelessly lost.  Upton looks better in her weekly Fark.com comment thread.
But the real issue is Diaz.  If she’s such a huge star, why does she have an agent, a stylist and a plastic surgeon that hate her?  Does Diaz read these scripts before she signs on?  And why is she beginning to look like Ellen Barkin?  Not that there’s anything wrong with the 60-year-old Barkin.  But it’s almost as if Diaz is trying anymore, if you believe she’s even been trying in the first place.  Sure she’s had her moments, but they’ve all been in supporting roles.  With a resume that includes “movies” like this, THE SWEETEST THING and WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS, Diaz needs the female version of a McConaissance ASAP.
            Even as I sit here, writing this review 11 days later, I can still smell the stench of THE OTHER WOMAN on my body.  And it’s the pungent smell of stale clich├ęs, lame attempts at humor and lazy filmmaking.  The movie is being marketed as a wonderful “ladies night out” kind of movie.  Ladies, you deserve better.


½*