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Unbalanced female folly funny

POSTED: April 24, 2014 10:58 a.m.

Director Nick Cassavetes’ female-bonding, cheating-husband-punishing comedy “The Other Woman” sets a new bar for erratic storytelling.

It begins with a deft montage introducing us to Carly (Cameron Diaz), whose life appears to be the fulfillment of many women’s dreams. She is a lawyer at a Manhattan firm. She is fit and an impeccable dresser. And she is dating the arrestingly handsome Mark (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). They have steamy sex and go to posh clubs and restaurants.

During a shot showing Carly and Mark eating at a swanky rooftop eatery, Cassavetes perfectly frames Carly with the American flag in the background. Her lifestyle is the image of the feminine American dream, and this introduction prepares us for a movie made with the same sophistication of “The Devil Wears Prada.”

Then Mark’s wife, Kate (Leslie Mann), enters the movie and we shift into madcap mode. Kate is a needy, stay-at-home wife who goes off on strange tangents about things such as a man who had to have part of his skull removed because his brain was swelling.

Kate is the chaos to Carly’s control, and that dynamic works as we watch the betrayed wife and the other woman form a weird but believable friendship.

The story owes far too much to “The First Wives Club” and “Nine to Five,” but the lead actresses make it very funny.

Diaz gets to play the smart one for a change, and she proves up to the task. And despite being an ensemble piece, Mann steals the show with a display of physical comedy that would make Lucille Ball proud.

However, this movie shows things like a very large great dane defecating. And by “shows,” I mean we watch it from when the dog is circling his chosen spot until there is a large pile of droppings on the floor. What’s worse, the scene is computer-generated. They actually paid money to have a special effects artist create a scene of a dog pooping. Now that’s classy.

Similarly, one of the ways Carly and Kate punish Mark for his infidelity is by slipping a laxative into his drink, and we are treated to an extended scene of him on the toilet. It’s straight out of “Dumb and Dumber.”

All femme-driven buddy comedies now live in the shadows of “Bridesmaids,” so perhaps Cassavetes and screenwriter Melissa Stack felt obligated to inject some scatological humor into the movie.

But are they really reading their audience accurately? Do women actually want such things to become standard in comedies made for them, or is this the sort of thing that worked once and should be, ahem, dropped?

I very much hope it’s the latter.

The secondary casting is hit-and-miss, too.

Surprisingly, Kate Upton does fine as the third member of the scorned trio by basically playing herself. She embodies the trophy girlfriend but is unassuming and sweet enough to be likable to other women.

Coster-Waldau is the perfect choice to play the human punching bag his character becomes, and Taylor Kinney and David Thornton are appropriately low-key and endearing as the only non-scumbag men in the movie.

On the other hand, Nicki Minaj is in this movie. Enough said.

“The Other Woman” also stumbles to the finish. A movie that shows many moments of keen timing and avoids many of the standard pitfalls of its genre ends with 10 of the most poorly executed minutes of film I have ever seen. Everything is forced, overblown and neither funny nor triumphant.

Still, up until then the movie offers a lot of big laughs and hits the right notes when it stays away from bodily functions.

“The Other Woman” is made to delight female audiences and will do that. It clearly resonated with the advance screening audience.

While it definitely won’t win any feminist awards, it should make for a fun girls night out and could become a surprise hit of the early summer.

Jeff Marker is head of the Communication, Media & Journalism Department at the University of North Georgia. His reviews appear weekly in Get Out and on gainesvilletimes.com/getout.


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