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They're not turning the 'Other' cheek.

Cameron Diaz plays the cool, brittle yin to Leslie Mann's weepy, whiny yang in "The Other Woman," an ungainly, often flat-footed yet weirdly compelling romantic dramedy about two gals who become unlikely best friends when they realize they're being screwed (literally) by the same man. Like a watered-down "Diabolique" or a younger-skewing "First Wives Club," this latest mainstream rebound from director Nick Cassavetes (after his 2012 indie "Yellow") taps into the pleasures of sisterly solidarity and righteous revenge: Beneath the wobbly pratfalls and scatological setpieces, there's no denying the film's mean-spirited kick, or its more-than-passing interest in what makes its women tick. These qualities should stand the pic in good stead with underserved female viewers as another superhero-filled summer gets under way.

High-powered New York attorney Carly Whitten (Diaz) doesn't suffer fools gladly or take dating too seriously, so it's clearly a big deal when she makes it to eight weeks with handsome businessman Mark King (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). But when she drops by to surprise him one night at his home in Connecticut, she has a shocking, awkward first encounter with his wife, Kate (Mann).

Furious and disgusted, but also calm and practical, Carly resolves to dump Mark and move on. But Kate isn't quite so ready to sever ties with her husband's unwitting mistress: Over the next few days, she turns up at Carly's law firm- and later, her apartment--in various states of inebriated distress. While Carly initially recoils from Kate's extreme neediness and insecurity, it's not long before the desperate housewife and the put-together career woman bond over their loneliness and, inevitably, their desire for payback. Things kick up a notch when Kate and Carly find out Mark has yet another mistress on layaway, Amber (Kate Upton), a young blonde bombshell who happily joins the vengeful sisterhood.

There's room to argue over whether "The Other Woman" (the first-produced screenplay by Melissa K. Stack) is ultimately a femme-empowering celebration of decency and monogamy, or a hopelessly retrograde portrait of scheming women incapable of defining themselves apart from a man, even if it's a man they happen to despise. As it winds its way toward an unexpectedly grisly showdown, the film often feels stranded between gross-out comedy, romantic fantasy and distaff psychodrama, taking its cues from the temperaments of its two central characters: It's lurching and volatile one minute, judgmental and calculating the next. Still, it's a testament to the actresses that we emerge with an appreciably strong sense of who their characters are.

Her nerve endings almost continually exposed, her mouth running like crazy, Mann at first seems to be channeling the ball-busting housewife she played in "Knocked Up" and "This Is 40," but she swiftly establishes Kate as a very different creature--warm and compassionate, and genuinely torn over whether to salvage or further sabotage her marriage. Having memorably embraced her inner rebel in "Bad Teacher" and "The Counselor," Diaz is in fine, nuanced form here, stepping into the heels of a strong-willed, successful working woman without reducing her to a one-note shrew.

The Other Woman Director:

Nick Cassavetes

Starring:

Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann

CREDITS: A 20th Century Fox release of a 20th Century Fox and LBI Entertainment presentation, pRODUCED BY Julie Yorn. Executive PRODUCERS, Donald J. Lee Jr., Chuck Pacheco. CO-PRODUCER, Patrick Walmsley. DIRECTED BY Nick Cassavetes, SCREENPLAY, Melissa K. Stack, CAMERA (DELUXE COLOR PRINTS, ARRI WIDESCREEN), Robert Fraisse; EDITORS. Alan Heim, Jim Flynn; MUSIC, Aaron Zigman; MUSIC SUPERVISOR, Julia Michels; PRODUCTION DESIGNER, Dan Davis. REVIEWED AT Fox Studios, Century City, Calif., April 22, 2014. MPAA RATING: PC-13. RUNNING TIME: 109 MIN. CAST: Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, Kate Upton, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Nicki Minaj, Taylor Kinney, Don Johnson

JUSTIN CHANG

@justincchang
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Title Annotation:The Other Woman
Author:Chang, Justin
Publication:Variety
Article Type:Movie review
Date:Apr 29, 2014
Words:612
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