By Bob Garver
Cameron Diaz gets top billing in “The Other Woman,” and I guess that’s technically appropriate. She does play the main character, a lawyer who finds out her boyfriend is married. But if you see the movie, you’ll soon discover that Diaz isn’t the main attraction. That honor goes to Leslie Mann as the jilted wife. She’s the real star of this show, and she turns this otherwise vanilla comedy into something quite funny and enjoyable.
Carly (Diaz) engages in a whirlwind romance with pretty-boy investment banker Mark King (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). He blows off meeting her father (Don Johnson) so he can go to his house in Connecticut. She goes there to surprise him, but is greeted instead by his wife Kate (Mann). The two were never supposed to know about each other, let alone meet.
Embarrassed, Carly tries to distance herself from both Nick and Kate, but the wife soon catches wind of the affair and confronts her. Surprisingly, she’s not out to attack her for being a home wrecker, she just wants to know what’s become of the man she married. Despite Kate’s needy nature, the two become friends. That friendship is tested when Kate learns that Nick is still being unfaithful. Carly swears she is not the mistress, and the two investigate together. They soon meet Amber (Kate Upton), who has been deceived as well, and the three of them conspire to take down Nick.
The key to the movie is the Leslie Mann performance. She talks in such a way that I find it hard to believe that she had lines written for her, I think she’s just riffing. The longer she goes on, the funnier she is. And I don’t mean that the joke is that she’s going on too long; I actually hate it when comedies do that. What I mean is that she has a tendency to work herself up, to get on a roll and not stop. This style could be irritating to viewers (it’s even irritating to the characters, especially Carly), but I say it pays off big time. The only times Cameron Diaz comes even close to getting the kinds of laughs that Mann does are the scenes that involve physical comedy. With these scenes, Mann and Diaz are about equally matched.
Kate is basically the Dumb One to Carly’s Smart One for the first half of the movie and it works great. Once Amber is introduced, she becomes the Dumb One and Kate is left to reinvent herself as the Strong One, finding it in herself to move on from her attachment to Nick. The change to the dynamic doesn’t work so well. The humor surrounding Amber mostly relies on tired “dumb supermodel” jokes, though Upton makes them land better than they should. Worse is that it forces Kate to become a straighter character, which slowly sucks the comic energy out of the room. By its end, the movie has to rely on slapstick from Nikolaj Coster-Waldau for laughs. Between the actor’s sliminess here and his detestable actions on last week’s “Game of Thrones,” the movie is at least coming out at a time when people want to see him punished.
“The Other Woman” is getting slammed by critics, most of whom disagree with me on the Leslie Mann performance, so I doubt it will wind up with an Oscar nomination. But the Golden Globes have separate Lead Acting categories for comedies and dramas. I could see her picking up a nomination for Best Actress in a Comedy. The movie isn’t very ambitious, it goes for some cheap laughs and there’s little to enjoy outside of the one performance. But that one performance had me cracking up more than anything I’ve seen in a long time.
Two Stars out of Five
“The Other Woman” is rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, sexual references and language. Its running time is 109 minutes.
Contact Bob Garver at firstname.lastname@example.org.