The Other Woman

| April 30, 2014
Ladies' Man: Revenge is a dish best served dumb in Cassavetes' comedy about women getting even with a three-timing tool.
Ladies' Man: Revenge is a dish best served dumb in Cassavetes' comedy about women getting even with a three-timing tool.

Everybody makes mistakes. Take Nick Cassavetes. It's not his fault that John Cassavetes, the father of independent filmmaking, was his father, too. Given that he didn't inherit an iota of Dad's talent, however, it probably wasn't the greatest idea to go into the family business.

At the same time, Cassavetes seems to have made more than his share of bad choices. In 2010 he allegedly took $300,000 from a gullible Canadian in exchange for giving the man's daughters parts in his next project, setting himself up for a lawsuit when he didn't follow through. In 2011, Cassavetes took part in a poker game that litigants claimed was a Ponzi scheme that bilked them out of millions.

In 2012, the director made headlines by defending incest (the subject of a work-in-progress entitled Yellow) and comparing it to gay marriage. That same year he was recognized as one of California's Top 500 Tax Delinquents. In 2013, he failed to get Yellow released and sued a friend for welching on a poker debt.

I don't mention the filmmaker's peccadilloes to be mean-spirited but to provide the only conceivable explanation for his most heinous crime against humanity yet — making The Other Woman. There's only one reason the director of a movie as successful as The Notebook (2004) would stoop to producing rejectamenta this rank: He's bankrupt — maybe financially, beyond a doubt creatively.

Canadian theater dads are unlikely to finance his high-stakes hobbies further, and, from the look of things, Cassavetes has been getting into more jackpots than he's been winning over the past 10 years. The result is only-in-it-for-the-money moviemaking of practically unimaginable crappiness.

The traditionally winning Leslie Mann is squandered in this film as a whiny housewife who discovers that her husband (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is carrying on with not one but two other women. They're a high-powered attorney played by Cameron Diaz and a younger ditz whose profession appears to be running on the beach in slow motion. She's played by supermodel Kate Upton.

After freaking out for the better part (and I use the term loosely) of the first act, Mann's character does what any self-respecting woman in her position would do. She becomes BFFs with her one-time rivals and enlists them in a puerile campaign to get even with the cad they share in common.

You can feel your brain cells dying as you watch the three pour Nair into his shampoo bottle, put estrogen in his morning smoothie and spy on him obsessively. The theme from "Mission: Impossible" is hauled out for those scenes. Yup, somebody got paid for that brainstorm.

The comedy's centerpiece sequence begins with Diaz surreptitiously spiking the clueless dude's drink with a laxative and ends with him emitting a symphony of gastrointestinal noises in a restaurant stall. Yup, somebody got paid for recycling the volcanic evacuations from Dumb and Dumber and Bridesmaids.

That somebody is screenwriter Melissa Stack, a woman who, I have to say, gives the impression of not thinking much of women. When her characters aren't behaving like needy, neurotic children, they're acting like lobotomized frat boys. Nothing in this upside-down ode to empowerment is remotely believable — much less entertaining — and no one in the cast does anything that even resembles acting. It's a manic, misogynistic mess from start to finish.

The buck stops with Cassavetes, of course. No doubt trying to fill such a legend's shoes does things to one's mind. Too bad inspiring a sense of artistic integrity doesn't appear to have been one of them. Among John Cassavetes' most revered works is a portrait of domestic pressure and pain called A Woman Under the Influence (1974). It's a shame the man who made The Other Woman wasn't a little more influenced himself.

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