Hollywood years are like dog years, which means 17 years is a long time. Seventeen years ago Cameron Diaz played the chipper second banana, the other woman, in the Julia Roberts vehicle My Best Friend’s Wedding. While that movie really belonged to Rupert Everett, the sunny goodwill flying out of every single one of Diaz’s pores cast a nice warm glow over the Chicago-filmed diversion.
Diaz has long since proven she can tackle various leading roles, and in the unsteady revenge comedy The Other Woman Diaz finds herself running the show in a Sarah Jessica Parker Sex and the City sort of way. It lies at the midpoint between the black-comic nastiness of a Bad Teacher (which she was in) and the raunchy but sweet realm of a good, blessedly female-driven ensemble project such as Bridesmaids (which she was not). Written by newcomer Melissa K. Stack, The Other Woman offers roughly equal parts wit and witlessness, casual smarts and jokes, lingering and detailed, regarding explosive bowel movements. Based on that ratio, I’d say the screenwriter’s future in Hollywood looks pretty good.
Re-rated PG-13, down from an R on appeal, the film stars Diaz (the blonde one) along with Leslie Mann (the blonde one) and Kate Upton (the blonde one). Carly Whitten, the Diaz character, is a high-flying Manhattan attorney two months into a romance with a new man (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, a Game of Thrones regular and graduate of the Ewan McGregor School of Charismatic Smarm). His money, suspicious in its origins, comes from something to do with startup companies and websites. Visiting Mark’s Connecticut home one night dressed as a stripper-plumber, Carly learns her beau is married, though Mark remains unaware that the women in his life are getting hep to his hectic step. Mark’s wife, Kate (Mann), and Carly form an alliance once they realize the weasel is weaseling with a third, younger, va-voomier specimen (Upton), whom they also recruit.
Where does it go from there? All over the place. As these three become one and hatch their revenge schemes, half-heartedly, the movie—directed by Nick Cassavetes in an ever-shifting variety of tones and styles—attempts to deliver a little something for everyone. Pathos: Mann in wrenching close-up, in bed, as she realizes her marriage is shot. Fashion: Sex and the City costume designer Patricia Field throws every thread she can at her photogenic triad, breaking just short of drag-queen territory. Alcohol: There is a lot of drinking in this movie, in the neighborhood of Leaving Las Vegas intake levels, though without the fatal side effects.
A 20th Century Fox promotional Twitter account recently encouraged the film’s target audience: “grab the girls, book ur tickets & let us know what you think!” Many films come to mind watching this one, among them Working Girl (Nicki Minaj, the rapper/singer, glides through the role of Carly’s assistant) and The First Wives Club. The repartee ranges from leisurely discussions of personal landscaping to faintly hypocritical soul-searching regarding love and fulfillment. Primarily the movie is selling teeth and clothing. Still, line to line, it’s fresher than any number of guy-centric Hangover-spawned affairs, despite director Cassavetes’ lack of flair for slapstick. Diaz remains a game physical comic even when her two-headed film’s asking no more of her than to dance, or stumble into some bushes.
The Other Woman (PG-13): ★★★☆☆