The Other Woman showcases three angry women, and one train wreck

The most fascinating struggle in The Other Woman isn’t the one between three aggrieved females and a philandering male. It’s the one between director Nick Cassavetes, screenwriter Melissa Stack, editors Jim Flynn and Alan Heim and any number of meddling producers.

  • May. 3, 2014 4:11 a.m.

The Other Woman

Two stars (out of four)

Rated: PG

The most fascinating struggle in The Other Woman isn’t the one between three aggrieved females and a philandering male.

It’s the one between director Nick Cassavetes, screenwriter Melissa Stack, editors Jim Flynn and Alan Heim and any number of meddling producers.

The actors — Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann and Kate Upton on one side, Game of Thrones’ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau on the other — all figure they’re making the big studio romantic comedy that the trailer is selling.

Cassavetes and his crew aren’t so sure. One moment they are indeed making that studio rom-com, hitting beats with yuks about public drunkenness, projectile bodily fluids, inconvenient pet pooches and smartass secretaries. The next they’re drifting along with a serious character-led drama about infidelity that’s more in line with the indie film world that Cassavetes (The Notebook, She’s So Lovely) hails from.

Not helping one bit for either type of movie is a ridiculously on-the-nose soundtrack featuring such overplayed tunes as Girls Just Want to Have Fun, Love Is a Battlefield, Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York and the Mission: Impossible theme.

Gawking at and listening to this mess does make for an interesting sit, though, much like watching a slow-motion train wreck. And the pairing of Diaz and Mann, both great comic actresses, suggest the two could really click in a better movie written to properly showcase their talents.

The Other Woman begins as the most gilded of romantic fantasies, with Robert Fraisse’s camera gliding through scenic views of New York at its most gorgeous as hot-to-trot lawyer Carly Whitten (Diaz) and her hunky new businessman boyfriend Mark King (Coster-Waldau) fall in bed and in love almost at first sight.

Turns out it is pure fantasy. Growing suspicious after Mark gives her a lame excuse for why he must bail on a date and stay at his Connecticut home one night, she drops in to surprise him and gets one of her own: Mark’s wife Kate (Mann) answers the door.

In real life, this would be the opposite of comedy, but The Other Woman suddenly shifts into wacky sister mode, as the daffy and needy Kate tries to wheedle information and some sympathy out of a backpedalling Carly.

After a succession of drinks, clothing try-ons and pratfalls that recall Mann’s slapstick turns in her hubby Judd Apatow’s films, Kate and Carly get serious about wanting to get revenge on Mark, who remains oblivious to it all.

The movie heads into The First Wives Club territory when Kate and Carly pick up a third enraged accomplice: blond beach bunny Amber (Kate Upton) whom Mark has been bedding on his supposed business trips to Florida.

She’s introduced running and jiggling into the water as if she’s making a Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition video, which is where career model Upton does her best acting.

Pooling their skills — “The lawyer, the wife and the boobs … a perfect killing machine!” — the three learn that Mark isn’t just conning them but also his company, to the tune of millions of dollars hidden in a Bahamas bank account. Revenge will be sweet for the women, and very gross, painful and expensive for Mark.

What’s clear from all this is that Mark isn’t just a philanderer and thief but an outright sociopath, which nullifies both the “rom” and “com” part of this supposed rom-com.

The way he carries on, and kudos to Coster-Waldau for accepting such an unlikeable role, they might well have dressed him in his medieval attire from Game of Thrones instead of tailored suits.

The Other Woman raises serious issues of how men treat women, and how women react to infidelity that the more serious side of Cassavetes might have profitably explored.

And perhaps he tried (he’s certainly no pushover), but got overruled by studio quippers, choppers and counters who wanted a popcorn flick, replete with such rom-com staples as the mouthy secretary (rapper Nicki Minaj), the rascal dad (Don Johnson) and the good-guy love interest (Taylor Kinney).

The only clichés missing to complete the set are the funny gay friend and the meddling mom, but the studio is probably saving them for The Other Woman 2.

Peter Howell is a syndicated Toronto Star movie critic.

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