Review: The Other Woman (2014)
It is impossible to stress to you just how hateful The Other Woman is without first considering the critical – and, in some circles, political – reaction that it has received. A number of reviews have focussed on the film’s “feminism”, or lack thereof, with some decrying the fact that a film in which three women join forces to take down a ruthless man somehow manages to fail the Bechdel Test (which is flawed, though is still one of the best guidelines for sexism in the movies that we have) while others bemoan the film’s apparent mean-spirited misandry. Both of these reactions, however, miss the point entirely. The Other Woman doesn’t hate men, nor is it sexist; it hates everyone in equal measure, and no one more so than the audience.
Directed by Nick Cassavetes, a man who loves nothing more than to punish his audience for crimes they’ve committed in a previous existence by boring them half to death, The Other Woman is a generic, humourless, cruel, barren vessel of film in which the laughs are almost as thin as the characters and the story. Based on the idea that all men are bastards while all women are vapid and obsessed with said men, The Other Woman offers an escapist glimpse into my idea of a dystopian society, in which everyone is attractive, wealthy and oh-so-unpardonably-stupid, and in which Nicki Minaj is considered talented.
The plot, as anyone who has seen the trailers or, indeed, seen anything, ever, is as predictable as they come. At one point, Diaz’s character bemoans the fact that something is clichéd, presumably in an attempt to suggest that the film’s genius is in its self-awareness, but this is just a cheap trick to paper over the fact that it’s all so inconceivably bland. A man (Coster-Waldau) is seeing a woman (Diaz). This woman is a lawyer (THEREFORE SHE’S BRAINY AND IT’S ALL FEMINIST BECAUSE THE WOMAN HAS A GOOD JOB, WHAT DO YOU MEAN SHE’S OBSESSED WITH THE MAN IT’S FEMINISMZ!!!) and, as she tells her loathsome secretary (Minaj), she’s rather in love with this prick. However, it turns out that this prick – who, for all we know, might be a nymphomaniac with serious mental health problems – has a wife (Mann), who befriends the lawyer so they can enact their vicious revenge. They also befriend the man’s other mistress, “the Boobs” (Upton), and plan to ruin the man, both financially and emotionally.
The problem here is simple. The Other Woman is like the cinematic equivalent of a so-called “woman’s magazine”, in which female writers belittle other women in the name of making themselves feel better. The film advertises itself as a bastion of sisterhood, yet it’s ripe with mean-spirited jibes at other women and serves simply to marginalise anyone who isn’t as attractive as the three leads. The implications are obvious; why would a man cheat on these women? They’re all beautiful, intelligent and charming. I mean, fair enough, if they were slightly overweight or a bit independent then fine, he can cheat away, but to cheat on Cameron Diaz and Leslie Mann? What a monster! Furthermore, rather than real characters with real personalities, we get three husks with labels; the wife, the lawyer and the boobs. None of them are representative of real women in any way; they’re just caricatures with no likable traits whatsoever. Worse still, the thing that drives them on isn’t solidarity with one another but simple, cold-hearted, money-grabbing vengeance. And we’re supposed to like these people!?
Its cardinal sin, however, is that it is just chronically unfunny. If you can ignore Cassavetes and Stack’s pathological distaste for most ordinary women, you’re still presented with a film that is a humourless wasteland of lame gags and increasingly stupid situations. Save for one woman who was cackling like a lunatic behind me (though she found the trailer for Adam Sandler’s new “comedy” Blended side-splittingly funny, so let’s not take her as a representative example of anything), the half-full screening in which I endured this monstrosity was silent and stony-faced. A few titters here and there weren’t enough the hide the fact that bugger all of any comic worth was actually happening on the screen.
Put simply, The Other Woman is pitiful, lowest common denominator trash. The performances are atrocious (it appears that Cameron Diaz, who once demonstrated such potential in films like Being John Malkovich, can’t even play a version of herself anymore), the script is flat, lifeless and insulting and Cassavetes’ direction is plain insipid. I laughed once throughout the entire film, though that was more a pity laugh at how desperate it had become than anything else, and I left with a searing rage at the manner in which this film treated both its characters and the audience.
Even if you’re a fan of the generic, Diaz-led RomCom genre, The Other Woman is still one to avoid. It makes There’s Something About Mary look like a classic Woody Allen flick and it makes Kate Upton look like a better actor than Leslie Mann, which is quite an achievement.