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Payback Sisters

by Laura Leon on May 1, 2014

The Other Woman
Directed by Nick Cassavetes

 

A wobbly hybrid of Bridesmaids and The First Wives Club, The Other Woman seeks to give modern-day women a reason to feel emboldened, even if that is by way of giving a two-timing husband diarrhea and engorged nipples.

No, this isn’t rocket science, but it’s actually better than its premise promises. Let’s be clear, the basic plot is exceedingly simple: Go-getter Carly (Cameron Diaz) is swept off her feet by dashing Mark (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) but, months in, finds out he’s actually married to Kate (Leslie Mann), a suburban stay-at-home wife. Carly’s all set to cut her losses, chalking her disappointment up to yet another case of male arrogance, but Kate, adrift and unmoored, wants to connect with her unwitting rival to try to figure out what went wrong and, more importantly, where to go from here. Against her better judgment, Carly becomes enmeshed in Kate’s life, coaching her on next steps and, when the two find that there’s yet another other woman, Amber (Kate Upton), abetting her on a scheme to get back at the man who’s screwing them all over.

The Other Woman

Much of that revenge exists in infantile plans to embarrass Mark, such as the massive influx of laxatives they give him to ruin an otherwise swank dinner out. Coster-Waldau gamely goes about the excruciating scenes of what happens next, which tells me he must have a good sense of humor, as his handsome character–somebody one can easily see holding sway over several panting ladies–becomes a sort of Mr. Bill-style punching bag before turning into something clearly dastardly and evil.

Melissa Stark’s script makes some passes at the idea of lost identity and the dangers of relying on a spouse for everything, but the movie isn’t really interested in investigating the inner lives of modern women, married or not. It’s really about the relationship between Carly, Kate and Amber, which becomes a sort of groovy chick thing, with the ditzy Kate almost adopting the earthy Amber, and with Carly as the stern sister/aunt. To director Cassavetes’ credit, the interplay between Diaz, Mann and Upton is golden, with each of the actresses bringing their best to the effort. In particular, Mann lights up the screen whenever she’s on, in a monologue about “brain camp” or having a panic attack in Carly’s office lobby. She’s an amazing mesh of Irene Dunne and Carole Lombard, with a touch of Teri Garr, and she brings out the very best not just in Diaz and Upton (very charming, not just pretty), but in the entire movie.