Quantcast
subscriber help

artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

The Other Woman review: sex and the infidelity

The Other Woman red light

We need an equivalent term to “Uncle Tom” for a woman — in this case, screenwriter Melissa Stack — who participates in Hollywood’s systematic hatred of women.
I’m “biast” (pro): no — just, no

I’m “biast” (con): in almost every possible way

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

It’s so awesome when you learn that your apparently amazing new boyfriend is married. Or when you learn that your husband, for whom you gave up your own career and the possibility of children in order to support his work, is cheating on you. Or when you learn that your amazing new boyfriend is married and that his wife and “mistress” are plotting revenge against the cheating louse. All of this happens to, respectively, high-powered lawyer Carly (Cameron Diaz), supportive housewife Kate (Leslie Mann), and… well, walking boobs Amber (Kate Upton). It’s allegedly awesome because you end up with new BFFs and fab getaways to the Hamptons and the Bahamas so you can spy on him in order to formulate your plans for taking him down.

The cheating louse is Mark (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau: Game of Thrones, Oblivion), and The Other Woman is so desperately terrible that I actually started to feel a little bit sorry for him at one point, even though he deserves whatever comeuppance might be coming his way. (You agree to an open marriage? Fine. But that is not the case with Kate and Mark, and he lied about his availability to Carly and Amber, and lying to your intimate partners at every turn is an enormous no-no.) Alas, the multifarious comeuppance he is asking for — for crimes beyond the romantic and into the financial — are not forthcoming to the degree they should be. (One character even says, flat out, that he is being saved from the fate he has earned for [bullshit reason redacted so as not to spoil].) So I mostly ended up angry at the movie for unconscionably skimping on the revenge in favor of the phony female bonding masquerading as, unforgivably, Girl Power and even Empowerment.

Fuck me — fuck all us actual adult women — that 41-year-old Cameron Diaz (The Counsellor, In a World…) and 41-year-old Leslie Mann (Rio 2, Mr. Peabody & Sherman) are still considered “girls” who need powering up, as if they were playing Super Mario Brothers or something.

This movie is cruel to the women it is supposedly all you-go-girl about. Carly is called a “ruthless law robot” by her assistant (Nicki Minaj: Ice Age: Continental Drift), but all we see is a woman devoted to her work… until she has to ask her creepy dad (Don Johnson: Django Unchained, Machete) about legal matters, because WTF. Carly also learns to “change” because Mark was such a jerk, but we never see how she is doing anything wrong; she didn’t know Mark was married and she doesn’t do married men (even though her assistant points out that married men might suit her lifestyle). Kate is, by the end of the film, someone we’re supposed to see as smart and capable, but even she demeans herself over the course of the story as someone who needs to go to “brain camp” because she can’t understand the papers her husband is constantly shoving in front of her to sign (and it’s hard to imagine, when we later learn what all those papers are, that she couldn’t have had an inkling of what she was signing). Upton’s (The Three Stooges, Tower Heist) Amber never has anything to offer beyond her boobs. Which is just mean and demeaning, and for no good reason, unless you think at least some women are stupid fembot sex toys.

The Other Woman was written by a woman, or at least by someone using a female pseudonym: Melissa Stack. As I’ve said before in reference to this movie, we need an equivalent term to “Uncle Tom” for a woman who participates in Hollywood’s systematic hatred of women.

Men are hated on, too, in a gendered way, as we would expect from a story that trades in the most egregious gender stereotypes: Mark is “humiliated” via the surreptitious slipping of some female hormones — this is part of the “revenge,” a subplot dropped by the script as quickly as it is picked up — which is allegedly hilarious for the feminizing affect it has on his body. I guess women are awesome and powerful until being “womanly” is a joke and an insult.

Another bodily attack that Mark comes under is something you’ve seen a hundred times before, and isn’t funny unless you’re still in the process of potty-training. But if repetitious grossout isn’t enough to entice you, there’s also some pointless idiotic slapstick that has no connection to what passes for a plot here.

I like the women starring in this movie. They have appealing chemistry together. I hate that this movie treats them like cartoon characters. I know it’s supposed to be a comedy… but why do movies meant to be appreciated by grownups act like grownups don’t actually exist?


Like what you’re reading? Sign up for the daily digest email and get links to all the day’s new reviews and other posts.

shop to support Flick Filosopher

Independent film criticism needs your support to survive. I receive a small commission when you purchase almost anything at iTunes (globally) and at Amazon (US, Canada, UK):

    
The Other Woman (2014)
US/Can release: Apr 25 2014
UK/Ire release: Apr 23 2014

Flick Filosopher Real Rating: rated HHW (Hollywood hates women)
MPAA: rated PG-13 on appeal for mature thematic material, sexual references and language
BBFC: rated 12A (contains infrequent strong language, moderate sex references)

viewed in 2D
viewed at a public multiplex screening

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, you might want to reconsider.

  • LaSargenta

    Equivalent term nomination: Phyllis Eaglet…for that *lovely* woman, Phyllis Schlafly and her Eagle Forum. Interestingly, it is common for the older eaglet in a a nest to kill its younger sibling if it hatches and it is more common if the older eaglet is a female. Doesn’t trip off the tongue easily, so not sure it’ll catch on, though.

  • RogerBW

    Of course it’s got to play the revenge angle softly. I suspect the real fantasy here is that three confident women care enough about this guy to bother to take revenge on him at all, rather than handing him over to the divorce lawyers and getting on with their lives.

    “Aunt Tommie”?

  • Gemma Bemma Bing Bang Boom

    “… we need an equivalent term to “Uncle Tom” for a woman who participates in Hollywood’s systematic hatred of women.”
    What about “Stepford Wife”?

  • Not bad. But it has other connotations, which could confuse people. When we call someone an “Uncle Tom,” there is no doubt what we mean.

    My fellow critic Carrie Ricky on Twitter suggested “paleofemme,” which isn’t bad. Though someone might think that means she follows the Caveman diet…

    @maryannjohanson Paleofemmes?— Carrie Rickey (@CarrieRickey) April 23, 2014

  • LaSargenta

    Could be ok…

  • Oracle Mun

    How about Aunt Lydia, after the character in The Handmaid’s Tale?

  • Not bad. I wonder if it’s too obscure, though. Though “Uncle Tom” only took on the meaning it has today through constant use.

    This is too hard.

  • LaSargenta

    The Handmaid’s Tale was/is a bestseller. Why don’t we start using this term…try to add it to Urban Dictionary…make a Wikipaedia page with cites all over the web from comments’ pages,,,

    It might catch on.

  • LaSargenta

    I really have to sit down and read that book all the way through. Don’t know why I haven’t so far.

  • Tonio Kruger

    I actually worked with a woman named Lydia. Her co-workers — who were mostly male — could not resist teasing her by constantly comparing her to the Lydia Deetz character in Beetlejuice the same way women named Michelle and Rita inevitably get compared to the title characters of certain Beatles tunes. And I suspect most people of my generation — and more recent ones — are more likely to think about Lydia Deetz every time they hear the name Lydia than they would any character in an Atwood novel. Unless they were hardcore fans of the Marx Brothers or >I>The Philadelphia Story, in which case they would be thinking about yet another type of Lydia.

  • rick

    Given that this movie sets a new record for its use of cliches and stereotypes, I’m amazed that they didn’t use the “male crotch injury” gag as well.
    Kudos to you, MaryAnn, for being able to sit through crap like this for two hours.

  • Tonio Kruger

    It’s tempting to suggest Margaret White from the Stephen King novel Carrie but that name might be more appropriate for a domineering mother, a female religious fanatic or just a female control freak. To use it for a mere screenwriter seems a bit like overkill.

    Then again there is always the Spanish word vendida, a female form of the word vendido which generally translates as sell-out. However, that word might be more appropriate for a certain type of participant in Hollywood’s war again women. For example, the Latinas (and unfortunately, they do exist) who went out of their way to undermine writer Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez’s campaign against the TV series Devious Maids by making her look like some wild-eyed kook.

    http://nbclatino.com/2013/06/07/opinion-the-problem-with-devious-maids-goes-far-beyond-hollywood/

  • Okay then! I should do a post about this. Remind me if I don’t get to it in a few days. (I should probably find a good passage from Handmaid’s Tale to explain…)

  • Oracle Mun

    Maybe something from the epilogue, where the anthropologist is explaining what was wrong with the Republic of Gilead, and how the “aunt” system was used to control the handmaids?

  • Oracle Mun

    Submitted for your consideration:

    “In the case of Gilead, there were many women willing to serve as Aunts, either because of a genuine belief in what they called ‘traditional values’ or for the benefits they might thereby acquire. When power is scarce, a little of it is tempting.”

  • Matt Clayton

    Yeesh, this is as bad as MAJ makes it out to be. It’s a damn shame the target audience lapped it up like they did last night. Even the slapstick got some laughs, especially the ‘running into the glass’ bit.

    Seriously, Cameron Diaz and Leslie Mann should fire their agents. It’s embarrassing to see these two capable actresses in what should’ve been a DTV flick.

  • The scariest thing is that this is probably the best they’ve been offered lately. I can’t even imagine how awful must be the stuff they turned down.

  • Beowulf

    Unfortunately, this may very well come in number one at the U.S. box office this weekend, beating out Captain America.

  • LaSargenta

    Well, I know two people who are seeing the Capt’n today…one of them already saw the movie three weeks ago.

    This piece of dreck isn’t going to get anyone seeing a second time.

  • Matt Clayton

    You’re right, I suppose they could’ve been in something worse than this, but it’s hard to top. The money must have been real good.

    I suppose we can give Nicolaj Coster-Waldau and Taylor Kinney some slack since this is their first big studio film though. But I feel bad for Waldau… his character is written as the asshole of the movie, but the protagonists are even worse.

  • Beowulf

    As you noted, they are both over 40. Used up and dried out.
    Give us more (More, I say Stimpy!!) action flix starring up-and-comers S. Stallone, Arnold the S, Harrison Ford, and Liam Neeson.

  • Nico

    Target audience? What did you expect from the Notebook guy? For a broad comedy I enjoyed quite a deal of this movie despite its tiresome contrivances. Then again Diaz’s performance was her worst in a long time, sucking all the life from the screen, especially in the slower scenes.

    Can’t agree about the age thing, they seemed about right for the mid-life crisis, I have a friend in the US who is a real life version of Diaz in this movie, with the same experiences – infidelity, meeting the wives etc. And she’s 46. This scenario has been played out more than once.

    And Leslie Mann won me over here, I’ve found her unwatchable in the past, most recently in that awful Forty movie.

    Plus I thought the film handled the sense of loss in a marriage sensitively for a comedy. On the other hand it tried the gross-out thing esp with the dog which was a rather pathetic attempt to go broad.

    Uncle Tom? Not really, don’t think anybody really thought that hard (or chose not to) about the politics, sexual or otherwise, in this film. If they did, it would probably never have been made. Nora Ephron this is not!

    And Mark? No epilogue for the cad! Now that made me wonder.

  • Uncle Tom? Not really, don’t think anybody really thought that hard (or chose not to) about the politics, sexual or otherwise, in this film.

    I’m sure they didn’t. Uncle Toms don’t think about politics, just about sucking up to the masters.

  • Bluejay

    we need an equivalent term to “Uncle Tom” for a woman who participates in Hollywood’s systematic hatred of women.

    I’ve been thinking about this, MaryAnn, and… well, do you really think such a label would be productive? To me “Uncle Tom,” as it’s used today, has very serious “race traitor” connotations; is it your intent to brand women as “gender traitors” if you perceive misogyny in their work? Does this mean you’d give Scarlett Johansson this label, for working on Under the Skin? It just seems to go against what I’ve always thought was your openness to other women having different (even opposing) views and interpretations than your own; I recall several comments (made by you, and by me) that women aren’t required to have a monolithic stance on anything.

    It seems to me that using an “Uncle Tom”-type label would make it easier for detractors to accuse you of branding someone a heretic for not adhering to a specific orthodoxy. And labels can get slippery; who’s to say someone can’t use an “Uncle Tom” label against you, for defending the Onion in the whole Quvenzhane Wallis affair?

    As Jay Smooth has suggested with regard to conversations about race, it’s more productive to criticize someone’s words or actions than to stick an incendiary label on them as a person. (He also suggests it’s better strategically, since what you really want is to hold them accountable for what they did rather than make less-rock-solid claims about what they are.) I’m also reminded of Neil DeGrasse Tyson saying he wants to avoid labels and “explore each other’s ideas in real time” instead.

    Anyway, those are my 2 cents (as of now), respectfully submitted.

  • I understand what you’re saying. And I believe I have already been called, in so many words, an Uncle Tom for my Wallis/Onion post.

    No, women are not required to all think the same way. But that doesn’t make women immune to criticism for their actions.

    The concepts we are pushing back against and the people who perpetuate them are not nice, and they don’t play fair. They don’t worry about hurting our feelings… but we should worry about hurting theirs?

    Calling someone an Uncle Tom — or whatever feminist equivalent we might come up with — isn’t a generic invective: It’s a specific commentary on their *actions,* isn’t it?

    Or do you imagine that I am going to start going around throwing out “Uncle Tom! Uncle Tom!” without any engagement with the words and actions of a person who has earned such a label?

    Yes, let’s “explore each other’s ideas in real time.” So how should we engage with a movie such as *The Other Woman*? What ideas is it positing that we can explore? What respect has it earned that it deserves our respect in return? How is this movie increasing the net knowledge or understanding of the world, and what can we learn from it?

    What if we came up with a feminist Uncle Tom term but used it only generically, and never applied it to an actual person?

    I don’t think I’m being unreasonable in realizing that, in our anti-intellectual climate, a readily graspable term has a lot more power than a long essay does. We need an equivalent and opposite term to, say, “feminazi” if we’re going to have any hope of countering the ugly ideas we’re trying to push back against.

    Am I wrong about that?

  • Bluejay

    I think the label conflates the person with the action, and makes for a weaker, less defensible argument. To call someone an “Uncle Tom” equivalent is to make claims not just about their actions but about their mindset, intentions, motives. Saying “Scarlett Johansson made what I think is a misogynist film” is different from saying “Scarlett Johansson is a misogynist.” In fact some commenters thought you were saying the latter, and you had to clarify that you’re talking about the film and its subtext, not the intentions of the filmmakers. In the Onion debate, I think that I, myself, took issue only with your actions, and never claimed (nor do I remotely believe) that you’re a “gender traitor” who willingly participates in the oppression of women. If we extend the argument to what someone is as a person, we run into complications that really aren’t necessary, I think.

    Yes, let’s “explore each other’s ideas in real time.” So how should we engage with a movie such as *The Other Woman*?

    By criticizing it thoroughly and excellently, exactly as you did in your review. Do you really need to call the screenwriter an “Uncle Tom” on top of that?

    The concepts we are pushing back against and the people who perpetuate them are not nice, and they don’t play fair. They don’t worry about hurting our feelings… but we should worry about hurting theirs?

    That’s exactly why we should play fair — because that’s what distinguishes us from the enemy. Haven’t we learned that yet from all the superhero movies? :-) If we’re going to win a fight, I’d rather we at least try to win it for the right reasons.

    in our anti-intellectual climate, a readily graspable term has a lot more power than a long essay does. We need an equivalent and opposite term to, say, “feminazi” if we’re going to have any hope of countering the ugly ideas we’re trying to push back against. Am I wrong about that?

    I think you’re right that we need powerful language on our side. I just worry that, if we get our own incendiary, oversimplified blanket term to counter their incendiary, oversimplified blanket term, then the discourse just gets cruder, the sides get more polarized, and clarity is never actually achieved.

    What if we came up with a feminist Uncle Tom term but used it only generically, and never applied it to an actual person?

    Well, maybe that could work. Even better: how about coining a verb describing an action, rather than a noun describing a person?

  • Nico

    I appreciate that Mary Ann. I wrote my views only an hour after seeing this film, and probably should have waited a day or more for these ideas to gel.

  • LaSargenta

    I like the verb idea.

  • LaSargenta

    Actually, you weren’t called an Uncle Tom w.r.t. the use of Ms. Wallis in that Onion tweet. There were comments posted calling you a racist.

    I’m with Bluejay on how best to ‘engage’ with The Other Woman and how to persist in attacking the actions though not the person. Still, there will always be people who defend their actions by accusing one of attacking their person. So be it.

    A feminist term to describe anti-feminist actions by allusion would be useful. A verb is a good idea.

  • I was accused of not being sufficiently feminist.

  • That’s exactly why we should play fair — because that’s what distinguishes us from the enemy.

    And this is why we’re not winning.

  • Bluejay

    I should have said that a better reason to play fair, other than just feeling good about ourselves, is that it helps us make a stronger case.

    To borrow Jay Smooth’s reasoning: If we brand Melissa Stack as a femme-Uncle Tom (or paleofemme, or whatever term we wind up using), we’re basically attacking her personal character. We’re strongly implying not just that she wrote a film that demonstrates Hollywood’s systemic hatred of women, but that *she* harbors a hatred of women consistently, in her life, all the time. And then she (or her defenders) can say: “How dare you! I grew up with strong women! My widowed mother worked five jobs and wound up running the local bank! I do breast cancer walks and Take Back the Night marches! I contributed to Hillary’s campaign!” and drag the argument in all sorts of directions.

    But if we keep the focus on the film she wrote — and maybe label that action with whatever clever verb we come up with — it’ll be harder for her to muddy the issue that’s actually at hand. That’s an argument we can win.

  • LaSargenta

    Yeah, but that’s not being called an Uncle Tom. We can’t appropriate the term and redefine it.

    And, there were people posting who were bringing up the racial issues that became inherent in so-called second-wave feminism. There were so many chances lost in how most of the more visible (media-approved) feminists were white. A shockingly large number of white feminists can’t come up with names of women of color from that period beyond Shirley Chisholm and Audre Lourde. Several people commenting were coming from that knowledge. There’s a lot of pain behind this really recent history — and it isn’t in the past. Still happening.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    You’re conflating “winning” with “won”. Because “we” are winning, but it will still be a long fight until “we’ve” won.

  • Tonio Kruger

    Since you’re using a Greek prefix, why not Paleogynes?

  • Tonio Kruger

    Then again paleofeminist is already in use in conservative circles, a fact I did not realize until I saw Camille Paglia use it in an interview on the Salon site. And no, it was not used as a compliment.

    Since it is already listed on the Urban Dictionary site, good luck distinguishing it from your word.

  • Tonio Kruger

    I did not mean to be that snarky in my last post. But the similarity between paleofemme and paleofeminist does suggest potential problems, even without the issues Bluejay brings up.

  • Tonio Kruger

    Then again paleofemme translates as “old woman,” which is not what you’re trying to say. So it would be a problematic term, anyway.

    Oh, well.

Pin It on Pinterest