Film Review: The Other Woman

Three women bond together to get revenge on a cheating lover in a comedy dominated by a wonderful Leslie Mann.

It will never be mistaken for a classic romantic comedy, but crude and ramshackle as it is, The Other Woman works better than you'd think. That's largely due to the relentless charm of Leslie Mann, and to a screenplay that occasionally stumbles into comic gold.

The slow opening focuses on no-nonsense lawyer Carly Whitten (Cameron Diaz), a dating skeptic who against her best instincts falls for dashing businessman Mark King (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). Just as she is about to introduce him to her dissolute father (Don Johnson), Carly finds out that Mark is married to suburban housewife Kate (Leslie Mann).
Bewildered by Mark's betrayal, Kate keeps pursuing Carly for answers. Thanks mostly to alcohol, the two become wary friends, but they don't turn into allies until they discover that Mark has still another lover, Amber (Kate Upton).

The three plot to ruin Mark, who as well as being a serial cheat is also defrauding business partners. Their scheme includes estrogen, laxatives, and some instantly forgettable fiddling with offshore bank accounts. Mostly the three sit around hating Mark while trying not to succumb to his charms.
It's a bad sign in a comedy when Cameron Diaz is the voice of reason. For much of The Other Woman, she has to tamp down her exuberant side and play spoilsport straight woman to her co-stars. And although the movie treats Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Kate Upton kindly, she is clearly eye candy with limited-to-nonexistent acting chops.

That leaves Leslie Mann to carry most of the comedy, which she does sensationally. Whether explaining why bacon could make your brain explode or threatening to erupt into an all-American rage ("I'm going to go crazy for real this time"), Mann finds a way to make her ditzy housewife funny, adorable, and smarter than anyone thinks.

In fact, Mann's too good for Melissa K. Stack's screenplay, which leans heavily on cocktails and crying jags for inspiration. Stack is shrewd about Carly's business drive and conflicted relationship with her father, and about Kate's insecurity and repressed desires. But the script's level of ingenuity drops rapidly when it comes time for the women to exact their revenge. Despite some great set-pieces and crowd-pleasing moments, The Other Woman runs out of steam well before its weak climax.

Every now and then, director Nick Cassavetes executes some pleasant slapstick or decidedly less enjoyable gross-out humor, but mostly stays out of the way of his stars. Cinematographer Robert Fraisse presents New York as a soft, posh fantasy land of designer bars and million-dollar homes, and takes care to showcase Diaz and Mann as elegantly as possible.

Revenge may be sweet, but it really shouldn't be this slow and prosaic, or smothered in a blanket of dull pop songs. Smart timing positions The Other Woman before summer's comedy onslaught, so it should grab those looking for this year's Bridesmaids. They will finds scenes that are frankly baffling, like one set in a Chinatown gambling parlor that apparently doubles as a bordello.

But they will also enjoy some choice one-liners from Nicki Minaj in what used to be the Eve Arden secretary role. And Mann, explaining why she didn't have sex with Mark because "It's barely dark outside" or complimenting Upton's looks because she "brings up our group average."

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