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The Other Woman

TedFlicks Rating: ★★★★½ $13.00 ticket on a scale of $0 to $14.00.


THE FUNNIEST PICTURE OF 2014 THUS FAR

There are no fewer than the 67 films, TV episodes, videos, and shorts listed on IMDB under the title, “The Other Woman,” the latest iteration of which was released today in the US.  That does not count titles in which “The Other Woman” is merely a part.  The title ranges from other feature films as far back as 1913 to episodes of My Three Sons and “Dr. Phil.”  Obviously the idea has legs.

The 2014 version, helmed by Nick Cassavetes, son of independent film pioneer John Cassavetes and actress Gena Rowlands, opened April 25 to a strong box office estimated at $20-million in the US alone.  That’s not bad for a pic with a budget estimated at $40-million US.

The elevator pitch for “The Other Woman” would be “’Born Yesterday’ meets ‘The Last Married Couple in America,” and ‘The First Wives Club’.”  It is at once a slapstick comedy, a buddy film, a romance, a chick flick, and something that will appeal to teenagers.  What it graciously lacks is 3-D and mega special effects.

Pic’s plot is simple.  Wife Kate King (Leslie Mann) discovers through a screwball encounter that her husband, investment banker Mark (Nikolaj Coster-Waldauknown to American TV auds for “Game of Thrones”)has been carrying on with high-powered Manhattan attorney Carly Whitten (Cameron Diaz).   At first Kate doesn’t believe it.  When she finds the proof, she stalks Carly in hope of forging an alliance.  Kate’s very big dog, which looks a lot like a Dalmatian with clipped ears, provides some scatological humor that will appeal to teenagers.  And there’s more for the teenagers, but your critic gets ahead of himself.  Eventually, after a campaign worthy of “I Love Lucy,” Kate forges an alliance with Carly, who had wanted nothing to do with Kate.  Both of them are extraordinarily adept at physical comedy (more for the teenagers), and the screenplay by Melissa Stack is indeed snappy.  More on the dialogue later.  But Diaz and Mann have three priceless Lucy and Ethel moments between them.  The first involves Diaz pouring Mann into a car service after a bender wherein they bond.  The second requires Diaz to be pushed out of a window of Mann’s Connecticut house and take down a trellis in the process.

Their discovery of a second mistress of Mark, Amber, played by 21-year-old Kate Upton with all her many excellent assets in fine view, cements their alliance.  Amber is soon drawn into the Kate & Carly conspiracy.  It also provides the third and super-priceless Lucy and Ethel moment:  Diaz, on discovering that Upton is her newest rival for Mark’s attention, makes chase for Upton on a sandy beach in the Hamptons only to be tackled by Mann.

A word about 21-year-old Upton:  This is her third feature film.  She displays a sort of wide-eyed innocence juxtaposed with sexuality, which may simply be the result of a top model (Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover) not yet knowing how to act or utter brilliance.  But she is really easy on the eyes, and she moves the plot along with enthusiasm and a wonderful degree of selflessness.

Diaz and Mann have made the transition from ingénue to mature leading lady with great finesse.  At 41 and 42 respectively, Diaz and Mann are still hot numbers, but their days of playing the younger woman, unless the guy is Eli Wallach, are over.

Readers may wonder why their critic brought up “Born Yesterday,” the 1950 flick starring Judy Holliday, Broderick Crawford, and William Holden.  It’s very simple.  Mark routinely has Kate sign papers – just as Crawford had Holliday do in “Born Yesterday.”  Thereby hangs the plot’s turning point – as it did in the 1950 pic.

Remainder of pic involves the triumverate’s takedown of Mark.  Said takedown is accomplished with subplots that will appeal to teenagers and older people who loved “Animal House” and wish that they were still teenagers.  Suffice it to say that laxatives, estrogen, and a sucker punch from Don Johnson as Carly’s dad, figure into it.

Despite all the concessions to America’s largest movie viewing cohort, “The Other Woman” works for adults.  Pic’s denouement is very adult and reminiscent of Judy Holliday’s revenge on Broderick Crawford in “Born Yesterday” – but on steroids.  And the snappy dialogue doesn’t hurt.

Among the gems are this line uttered by Diaz: “When you put the lawyer, the wife, and the boobs together you know how to do it just as shady as he does.”

And Mark is a shady guy.  He not only cheats on his wife, but he also cheats on his mistresses.  And he is stealing from his partners at the investment bank.  To give the character credit, he seems to have an unnaturally strong attraction for women.  They fall all over him – incuding a receptionist played by Nick Cassavetes’ daughter, Virginia Cassavetes, in an homage to the family tradition of casting relatives in pictures begun by his famous father.

Since pic is a comedy, there has to be a happy ending.  It’s the stealing that finally enables the trio of women to nail Mark.  This involves a trip to Grand Bahamas Island, which is plot’s only thin spot.  Snaring the evidence on Mark is glossed over in favor of brevity, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but does require a leap of faith on the part of auds.

Helming by Cassavetes is firm and economical.  Lensing by Robert Fraisse is good enough that one doesn’t notice it.  Sound recording is good enough for your hearing-impaired critic to scribble down lines of dialogue.  Other tech credits shine.  And a tip of the hat goes to editors Jim Flynn and Alan Heim, whose machetes were indeed cold.

Rated PG-13 (a boon to teenage boys who want to get a good look at Kate Upton) pic’s 109 minutes almost fly by.  Your critic knows that this is a violation of Woody Allen’s commandment that Thou shalt not make a comedy longer than 100 minutes (but Allen’s own “Everyone Says I Love You” went over the limit by a minute) but it works nonetheless.

Cassavetes may have done the impossible.  He directed a picture that amuses adults, has enough icky stuff for the teenagers, and one to which a guy can take his girlfriend or wife – or mother – without having to apologize.  Your critic deems this one safe for all audiences.

–30–

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