Cameron Diaz’s Carly Whitten has found a great boyfriend in Mark King (Nikolaj Coster-Waldrau), the kind that shows up outside her office with flowers and champagne — the kind that plunks down big money at the jewelry store for an eight-week anniversary.
The thing is, he’s a lousy husband to Kate (Leslie Mann) as he carries on with another woman.
In much the same way Carly’s romantic hopes with Mark are dashed, the formula for what could have been a decent revenge comedy in “The Other Woman” is thrown out of proportion with awful pacing and just entirely too much insistence on goofball comedy from Mann.
In fact, let me go on the record right now — before you see the awful star rating at the end of this review — that there was quite a bit about the movie that works and is fun to watch. Diaz’s Carly — a lawyer with a no-nonsense approach to the drama she encounters after meeting Mark’s wife — has strong moments playing the straight man to Mann’s zaniness. Similarly, Nicki Minaj (as Carly’s legal assistant Lydia) and Don Johnson (as Carly’s aging lothario father, Frank) are genuinely entertaining to watch and do a fine job with the supporting roles they have.
But most of those fleeting moments of positivity are buried in an avalanche of ridiculously overwrought scenes of Mann’s socially awkward betrayed wife having one series of panic attacks after another, a ceaseless waterfall of motor-mouthed insecurities that are almost entirely played for laughs in a way that undercuts the real pain in her character, who’s been cheated on repeatedly.
I’m not sure if Mann and director Nick Casavettes were aiming for the style of socially awkward and downtrodden diffidence that Kristen Wiig popularized in “Bridesmaids,” but it doesn’t get close to that bar or any other I’d consider entertaining or endearing. Kate should be the most sympathetic character in the entire film, but instead she is, at best, reduced to buffoonery — more often than not, she comes off as a stalker as she follows Carly in trying to make sense of her husband’s infidelity.
The film only really starts to become interesting as Carly and Kate uncover yet another of Mark’s mistresses (played by Kate Upton) and recruit her, as sisters in arms, to get revenge on him. By this point, I felt like the film’s entire 109-minute running time had passed me by — and despite how satisfying this payoff should be for these women, there’s nothing terribly inventive about the methods they use to make Mark’s life a living hell.
And as for Coster-Waldrau, he gives perhaps one of the hammiest bits of frenzied anguish I’ve seen from an actor whose last name isn’t Wiseau as his character is put through the ringer in the final act. But hammy or not, it’s still technically acting, something Upton — relegated to slo-mo shots of running on a beach and throwaway dialogue — never manages to muster.
Not having read the script, I can’t tell if screenwriter Melissa Stack intended for there to be so many musical montages — the kind where Diaz and Mann get hammered on Grey Goose and play dress-up while a cover of Pat Benatar’s “Love is a Battlefield” plays — but they certainly don’t serve as an adequate substitute for why Diaz’s Carly continues to endure Kate’s insufferable nature. Enter Taylor Kinney as Kate’s brother Phil, whose presence as a love interest for Carly seems to be the only reason the confederation with Mann and Upton’s characters — the entire point of the movie — even comes together.
I wouldn’t expect viewers to endure this mess, insomuch as the film’s own lead character begrudgingly goes along for the ride.
“The Other Woman” is rated PG-13. One hour and 49 minutes. One star out of five.