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STUDIO: IFC Films
RUNNING TIME: 102 Minutes
Natalie Portman cries and deals with family issues in this needless drama.
Natalie Portman, Lisa Kudrow, Scott Cohen, Charlie Tahan
“Emilia (Natalie Portman) and Jack (Scott Cohen) are having a difficult time with losing their newborn child. Jack’s ex-wife, Carolyn (Lisa Kudrow), is making things even more difficult due to her attempts to control her son William’s (Charlie Tahan) life.”
The packaging for the blu-ray copy of The Other Woman has no problem making it obvious that the only good thing about the flick is Natalie Portman. With two quotes spewing hyperbole about her performance, as well as her face being plastered all over the damn thing, IFC films was obviously smart about marketing this dud. Holding the film back after it was finished in 2009 until the buzz surrounding Black Swan was at its highest in 2011 was also a smart move. However, these marketing ploys don’t hide the fact that The Other Woman is a shallow film with almost no reason to exist outside of a few good performances.
Emilia (Portman) is not a very complicated character. The other characters in the film don’t seem to understand this, and the entire running time is devoted to making her more complicated than she really is. It’s all rather tiring, especially when characters make decisions and say things that no competent human being would ever allow to enter their brains. Add into that a whole group of side-plots that either get dropped completely or wrapped up sloppily in an already messy third act, and you have a film that at once feels light yet too bloated for its own good.
Portman spends a lot of her running time opposite Scott Cohens character, Jack, and the two have a fairly decent chemistry together. It’s unfortunate the script insists on Jack completely ignoring anything Emilia says, forcing us to dislike him from the very beginning. William (Charlie Tahan), Jacks child with Carolyn (Lisa Kudrow), fares a bit better, with Tahan showing a lot of promise for a child his age. His lighthearted scenes with Emilia towards the end are the best parts of the film, though they come about due to a maddeningly contrived plot point, but more on that later, I promise.
Lisa Kudrow is saddled with one of the least likeable characters I’ve seen on screen in years. She tries her best to use her natural charm to the enhance the performance, but she can’t save the fact that Carolyn is an egocentric bitch who does nothing but make everyone’s life miserable. The number of times she insults and embarrasses the child for which were supposed to believe she wants custody of is staggering, and no father in their right mind would let a child spend another minute with a woman like this.
Finally, Natalie Portman gives a fine performance, although I don’t think it’s deserving of the praise it’s received. Most of her scenes are overacted, as if shes still in Black Swan mode whenever its time to get emotional. Portman is at her best when she’s playing off of Tahan at the beginning of the film, using the same charm and sarcasm she did in Garden State to create a bond with the audience. Unfortunately, these moments come early in the film and then give way to a barrage of tears melodrama which could have been avoided if the performance had been toned down just a few notches.
Don’t let these negative comments fool you; the actors aren’t the problem. It’s the way their characters are written and directed that makes this film the dud that it is. The script adds in plots points wherever it feels like it, without any thought to pacing or common sense. As I mentioned earlier, a plot twist towards the end that has Emilia suddenly drop a gigantic bomb of a plot point onto the viewer is so contrived and obviously only there to give her something to “realize” at the end of the third act actually had me shouting at my TV screen. Plots in this film are either solved by a simple line of dialogue, or dropped completely in favor of something writer/director Don Roos thought was more interesting. I know this was based upon a novel, but I can’t imagine it was nearly as sloppy as this film turned out.
Roos has found reasonable success as a writer, which I still find surprising, but his work behind the camera still feels amateurish. The film isn’t poorly shot, though it doesn’t do anything special either. The camera seems content framing things like a soap opera, allowing the characters overacting to sell the moment rather than do anything dramatic itself. It’s played very safe, which would be fine if the writing was good enough to hold up the rest of the film, but it obviously is not.
Overall, The Other Woman is a collection of reliable actors giving reliable performances of a terrible screenplay with acceptable direction. It’s a shame this wasn’t a more lighthearted affair, as there is a fair amount of chemistry and fun to be had between the actors in this flick. As it stands though, the film is straight melodrama, where choices characters make are just insulting to the intelligence of the audience, making it hard recommend this film to anyone but the most devoted Portman fan.
I would have loved to have heard a directors commentary on this one, just to see why he made some of the decisions he made regarding both the screenplay and the direction of the film. Alas, a trailer is all that was deemed suitable for this release.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars