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'The Other Woman' is too uneven to deliver its message of empowerment

By Josh Terry

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, April 25 2014 12:00 a.m. MDT

A scene from "The Other Woman"

Barry Wetcher, Twentieth Century Fox

When you look up director Nick Cassavetes's IMDb page, you see that he's known for two primary films. The first is "The Notebook," a 2004 romance based on a Nicholas Sparks novel that typically sends guys ducking for the exits. The second is "Face/Off," an action thriller from the late '90s where Nicholas Cage and John Travolta surgically swap faces.

Clearly, the guy has an interesting range.

"The Other Woman" definitely leans toward the "Notebook" side of the Cassavetes spectrum, but only in that it won't draw much of a male audience. Intended to be a cry of female empowerment, it is a film that starts rough, picks up steam halfway through, then ends with an odd clunk, leaving you wishing that the good bits could have been better used.

The "Other Woman" in question is Carly (Cameron Diaz), a high-powered Manhattan attorney who finds out two months into a whirlwind romance that her beau Mark (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is a married man. The wife in the equation is Kate (Leslie Mann), a neurotic career-woman-turned-housewife who is just crazy enough to earn Mark the faintest hint of sympathy. Carly and Kate meet, friction turns to bonding, and when the two friends find out there is a third woman in the equation (Amber, played by Kate Upton), the trio comes together with a common mission: destroy Mark.

It's a fun premise once you get there, but early on, Diaz is too unsympathetic, and Mann tries too hard. In short, something just feels off. Maybe the delicate balance of slapstick humor with the emotional weight of infidelity is just a little too tricky. If you can make it through the first act, the bulk of the film does a better job of maintaining a consistent tone, but keep in mind that "better" is a relative term in this case.

Also keep in mind that the tone in question includes frank dialogue and some substantial vulgar content.

Luckily for the male audience, the cast also includes Taylor Kinney, who plays Kate's brother and the potential new man in Carly's life. He's pretty much there to assure the audience that all men aren't evil, but he's got his work cut out for him, since Carly's father Frank (an amusing cameo by Don Johnson) is just as much of a serial womanizer as Mark.

The female leads do a decent job together, with Mann providing the laughs and Diaz the brains. Upton is more or less along for the ride, limited to short lines of dialogue when she isn't being used for slow motion beach runs. It's possible that the Sports Illustrated cover model is present to draw male viewers, or even to be the 2014 answer to Bo Derek, but like the rest of the film, thinking too much about Upton's role seems to bring up more questions than answers.

The result is a well-meaning film that might provide a few laughs and maybe some deserved escapism, depending on your content tolerance. But if you look for anything beyond that, the cracks will be a bit too obvious.

"The Other Woman" is rated PG-13 for frequent profanity and vulgarity, sexual content and some comic violence.

Joshua Terry is a freelance writer and photojournalist who appears weekly on "The KJZZ Movie Show" and also teaches English composition for Salt Lake Community College. You can see more of his work at woundedmosquito.com.

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