On its surface, “The Other Woman” is a very welcome thing: A movie starring talented, funny women with their own punch lines and everything. In the movies, this is bizarrely rare.
But what do the stars in “The Other Woman” — Cameron Diaz and Leslie Mann, along with a side of model-turned-actress Kate Upton — do the whole movie? Gab about a guy.
“The Other Woman” is a slick hell-hath-no-fury comedy of female revenge, peppered with cheap and unimaginative toilet humor, but it’s elevated somewhat by the fine comic duo of Diaz and Mann.
Its simple concept — the banding together of a wife (Mann) and two of her husband’s unwitting mistresses — is dispiritingly sitcom-y, and its womanly uprising is a farce of female empowerment predicated on the characters’ shallow lives revolving around a man.
But it’s also light and snappy thanks largely to the chemistry between Mann and Diaz. As far as glossy, formulaic comedies with questionable gender politics go, you could do a lot worse.
We enter the story through Diaz’s character, Carly, a high-powered, high heels-wearing Manhattan attorney used to making men her prey. Yet her feelings are surprisingly strong for her latest fling, Mark King, played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau of “Game of Thrones,” again playing a Prince Charming on the outside, cad on the inside. When she turns up to surprise him at his Connecticut home dressed as a sexy plumber, she’s aghast when his wife, Kate (Mann), answers the door.
Kate soon enough realizes what’s going on and turns up, with her Great Dane in tow, at Carly’s office (where Nicki Minaj makes excellent use of her few minutes as Carly’s assistant). Mann’s jilted wife isn’t out to get Carly but needs a friend outside of her circle. A reluctant Carly eventually yields to Kate’s desperate persistence.
They make a funny pair: one the polished, cool attorney, the other a frazzled, ditzy emotional mess. Kate is slow on the uptake: “Does this mean he’s not training for the marathon?” she wonders. She feels an “all-American rage” bubbling up, and the two conspire to stealthily deliver Mark his comeuppance. They hit it off over drinks, giving Mann a chance to reprise her excellent, barfing drunk from “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.”
If “The Other Woman,” which was directed by Nick Cassavetes (“The Notebook”) from a script by Melissa Stack, were wittier, their schemes would be more creative than spiking Mark’s shampoo with nail polish remover or his drink with something that will make him run for the bathroom. (“Bridesmaids” was far more creative in such a scene, with Maya Rudolph surrendering like a sad swan in a heap of wedding dress in the middle of the street.)
When Upton, as Mark’s latest conquest, joins the group, she mostly just plays the part of eye candy, jogging in a bikini in slow-motion. She fits in without disturbing Mann and Diaz’s rhythm of physical comedy and pratfalls. Frankly impressed by Upton’s looks, Kate is happy to have her bring up “the group average.”
But Cassavetes seemingly tries to sap any energy that Mann and Diaz give the film. Any time music kicks in, terrible filmmaking results, usually in montage form. The wealthy interiors — Manhattan, Fairfield County, the Hamptons — increase the artificiality of the film, which climaxes crudely.
The real question is: Why, exactly, would these three women think twice about this guy? They’re all so out of his league.
“The Other Woman,” a 20th Century Fox release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “for mature thematic material, sexual references and language.” Running time: 109 minutes. Two stars out of four.