April 25th, 2014 | by JAY HORTON Movies & Television | Posted In: Movie Reviews

Basic Beaches: The Other Woman Reviewed

the-other-woman-cameron-diaz-2014

The Other Woman screened after WW press deadlines, making us late to the vengeance-themed beach party. 

Critic's Grade: C

The Other Woman makes friends in low places.

The Bechdel Test holds that a film must present a scene featuring two women talking about something other than a man. The Other Woman would almost certainly flunk it. The majority of screen time is given over to a rambling conversation between our jilted protagonists (Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann and Kate Upton, helpfully self-identified as “the lawyer, the wife and the boobs”) about how best to strike vengeance upon the investment-banker snake (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) that done them wrong, but it's the sort of movie that doesn't allow any of its barely-sketched personae any other motivations to forward the plot. Sisterhood is understood as a pleasantly contrived distraction to be indulged while waiting out what's truly important. Men, for their part, exist almost entirely as an abstraction of happy endings. The Other Woman limns a horribly constrained world-view bound together by a willful solipsism sure to crumble whenever all-consuming passions depend upon another for success. Still, though strewn with little more than live-action cartoons reduced to their most awful traits, they're not altogether unrecognizable, and the lingering fall off the cliff of towering egotism inspires more than a few laughs.

As the first feature written by Melissa Stack (whose unproduced screenplay I Want to F Your Sister has been kicking around the studios for nearly a decade), The Other Woman arrives as an odd melange of the trite and the truculent. There's nothing new, exactly, but the familiar touchstones appear cleaved of the faux-sentiment typically prescribed to ensure the mendacity goes down easy. These are Mean Girls all grown up, steeped in casual sociopathy, and their mounting unkindnesses effectively cushion the sudden moments of violent slapstick. This is also the comedic debut of director Nick Cassavettes, heretofore known for maybe-too-precious emotive celebrations like She's So Lovely and The Notebook, and, whether simply tone-deaf to the usual beats of the genre or possessed of a truly deadpan wit, he neatly undersells the farcical brutality amidst an otherwise overblown aspirational fantasy full-to-bursting with gorgeous vacation spots, designer frocks and summer jams.

Diaz' unfulfilled career woman, Mann's ditzy hausfrau and Upton's cheerily empty vessel may read like anti-feminist tropes, but, fleshed out by talented performers, they're hardly played that way. The most grievous insults are playfully wielded and blithely absorbed, and they savor each self-deprecatory aside as off-handed testament to an outsized pride. The Other Woman may have been green-lit as one of the daughters of Bridesmaids, but there's none of the false heart supposedly centering those films' manic revulsions. A more proper reference point would be the ur-bro paeans to competitiveness that flourished 'round the oughts, and, like a distaff Tomcats, we're asked to root onward the lesser evil.

Of course, this does little to redress the paucity of engaging portraits of the fairer sex midst blockbuster season—as if sensitivity-shaming the least democratic of arts toward greater representation would necessarily veer toward empowering ends—but there's an appealing zest. However damning the destination, the ride itself feels liberating. Perhaps in some better world, major motion pictures would delight in capturing the value of supportive female friendships through expansive portraits, but, in the age of the selfie, there's gotta be room for a stylized caricature.

 
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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