Directed by Nick Cassavetes, (who directed one of the most romantic movies of all time, The Notebook), The Other Woman is a film about a woman (or three) scorned, which never reaches the levels of feminine bonding and female empowerment that would cast it among the great films to conquer such subject matter. In fact, being most frivolous at times, it would not even rank in such a list.
However stars Cameron Diaz and Leslie Mann are inexplicably and undeniably funny women. Period. And their talent and experience on screen cannot be outdone by whatever bad writing and trivial plot points may befall them—at least, not entirely outdone.
NPR's Linda Holmes correctly points out many of the flaws with a movie like The Other Woman, and notes several points about the way in which Hollywood, and our 21st century world in general, have STILL not fully figured out precisely how to present a tale as old as marriage itself (i.e. infidelity) in a heartfelt, fully actualized, empowering fashion. And more to the point, they have not utilized the humorous women they are given to work with in a way that capitalizes their strengths.
There is a bone, however, to pick with the idea that everything needs to be "making a strong statement" or somehow or other advancing a cause (for women or another group, subset of society, or cause). Sometimes something can simply just be what it is.
Yes, it is ridiculous that it's not reflecting the real genius of these smart women. True. However, it is not rightly fair to be unable to approach a movie such as this from different angles, i.e., one can still like it, enjoy the experience of watching it, and genuinely have laughed at many hilarious scenes and walk away saying, "yes, I liked that movie," whilst also realizing in the bigger picture, all of those stark realities that Holmes points out, (women only talking about men, etc.) do ring true. Surely, those are not good things.
Yes, there should be more movies where women are not dumbed down. But at the same time, when taken for face value, a movie can also just be enjoyed and be dumb and not have to always say something about the advancement of women or otherwise. It can just be what it is, a funny, dumb movie. That's okay. And if some audiences truly think that Leslie Mann or Cameron Diaz have gotten to where they are in life—as strong, successful, independent women leading powerful and very wealthy lives—by being like the shallow, insipid goofballs the characters they play in this movie are, than that's on the audience. They're being the stupid ones at that point. And Diaz and Mann are laughing all the way to the bank.
Now, as for the film itself: it finds Kate King, (Leslie Mann, who thus far from this review you may be led to believe is an ordinarily strong voice in film, when really, she's often quite the nasal, irritating contrary, holds her own very well and hilariously as the ever-faithful, if completely out of touch with reality, wife), left in devastation when she realizes her husband Mark King, (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, of Game of Thrones fame, who sultrily herein could not possibly be a flatter, less realized character), has been cheating on her with Carly Whitten (Cameron Diaz, playing a together, successful, stereotypical lawyer, but bringing the pizazz and panache for which Diaz is signaturely known).
Already from that last description paragraph, there are disturbing frustrations with the very premise (i.e. Kate being merely a "wife" and nothing more...but the film tries hard to add some twists and turns of her being the real "brains" behind her husband's business ideas, but those plot points seem trite and canned, forcefully added in to make sure that at least Kate isn't entirely a blithering idiot—but again, mind you, in Mann's defense, a very funny one.
The two ladies, rather than loathe each other, and at the behest of Kate, become friendly drinking buddies who discover that their cad, Mr. King, has been cheating on both of them with another (much younger) woman named Amber (played by Kate Upton, who most assuredly ought solely to remain a supermodel, for her acting skills mirror that of the stagnant airbrushed paper magazine covers she so often lusciously graces). Soon added to their team, the three ladies bound on a quest to make their man suffer and make up for the wrong he has done them all.
Hardly worth mentioning is a supporting role of Carly's legal secretary, Lydia, who is played by Nicki Minaj. It is clear that this is Minaj's first attempt at acting, (save the voice acting she lent to Ice Age: Continental Drift), and let us all hope that it is her last. She cannot hold a moment on screen without making the audience cringe at just how stolid and contrived her movements are and her lack of verisimilitude is. Never having been a fan of Minaj as a rapper, it's even harder to buy her as an actress, especially up against such a seasoned comedienne as Diaz. The role of Lydia, however minor, would have been much better served if played by someone like Sherri Shepherd or Kate McKinnon, both hilarious women, either of whom would've brought some real humor to this minor role.
In any case the film's core triumvirate's journey is unfounded in any real sense of veracity, because as anyone who has been in this situation may know, the desire for vengeance is not generally met with the need to make others laugh. Thus, the premise of the film falls short of one in which real emotions can be empathized with and true catharsis can be undergone. But again, that is not the aim of a movie like this—which is not to entirely let it off the hook; it should aim higher, surely—but just because it doesn't, doesn't mean that it doesn't make for an enjoyable viewing experience. And furthermore, laughter can be found in the unexpected and merely human, unplanned moments, which are the times the film succeeds greatest: when it simply presents these women handling situations as themselves, not doing so for a canned laugh or two.
Is it a great film that will last through the ages? Probably not. Will it make for a fun Friday night in with some glasses of Chardonnay with your girlfriends? Definitely. Should it serve as the basis for a thousand articles of "how and why Hollywood doesn't know how to utilize funny women" and "why aren't there more movies like Bridesmaids"? Perhaps...but let's all agree to cut everyone some slack, shall we? The filmmakers, actors, and studios involved never purported The Other Woman to be the next Casablanca.