This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 20th April 2014
A standoff between wife, mistress and cheating Lothario is truly the stuff melodrama is made of, but made infinitely more pleasurable to witness when instead of screaming at each other, the women band together to seek revenge. Such is the situation for The Other Woman in this female-strong but not quite feminist take on infidelity.
Director Nick Cassavetes is at home in chick-flick territory, having helmed the smash-hit The Notebook and other chick-lit adaptations such as My Sister’s Keeper. His career shows no sign of getting grittier as here he reunites with Cameron Diaz to cast her as a hotshot lawyer who discovers her perfect new boyfriend is married. Intending to cut the jerk loose and move on, she becomes embroiled in the neurotic panic of his wife (a too-cutesy-but-she’s-terrific-anyway Leslie Mann, staple comic wife/sister in Judd Apatow films) who is intent on bringing the philanderer down but doesn’t have the smarts to know how (“Does this mean he’s not training for a marathon??” she cries, post-revelation).
There’s been a lot of talk lately about the so-called Bechdel test – the cinephile’s appraisal of how women fare in film according to the three criteria of whether: 1) there are two named female characters in a film; 2) they have a conversation with each other; and 3) the conversation is about something other than a man. (Needless to say, Hollywood’s results are usually damning.)
The Other Woman starts with promise in that it boasts not two but three leading ladies (plus a cameo from singer Nicki Minaj as the bolshy PA), and boy do they talk a lot. But the premise of this film demands that aside from the odd compliment about shoes or sexy underwear, their preoccupations revolve solely around how to ruin the life of the charmingly callous Mark (Danish hunk Nikolaj Coster-Waldau from Headhunters).
While it’s a Bechdel fail, on the whole the film succeeds thanks to the charm of its leads (a minxy Diaz playing the straight girl to Mann’s undisputed knack for physical comedy) and some laugh-out-loud truisms in the script. Inevitably there is poop-humour (sigh), and where there are boobs, they are given the slo-mo, running-in-a-bikini treatment. With a ridiculous ending that nonetheless amused my audience, The Other Woman at least puts the women centre stage. Maybe next time they’ll get only the best lines.