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"The Other Woman" Flunks the Bechdel Test, and Many Others Besides

Photo of Sam Adams By Sam Adams | Criticwire April 25, 2014 at 11:27AM

The fact that the three female leads in this comedy of revenge don't talk once in its 109 minutes about anything other than a man is only the beginning of how bad it is.
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Leslie Mann, Nicki Minaj, Cameron Diaz and Kate Upton in "The Other Woman"
Leslie Mann, Nicki Minaj, Cameron Diaz and Kate Upton in "The Other Woman"

As more than one reviewer notes, "The Other Woman," in which wife Leslie Mann and mistresses Cameron Diaz and Kate Upon scheme to punish the man ("Game of Thrones'" Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) who's cheated on them all, is a nearly two-hour movie with three female leads that somehow fails to pass the Bechdel Test. Not once in its 109 minutes do the three of them, or Nicki Minaj, who plays a secretary to Diaz's high-powered lawyer, have a conversation on a subject other than Coster-Waldau, which is almost perversely impressive. But while critics aren't fond of the movie, and many purely loathe it, their distaste is mitigated to varying degrees by a desire to be in the actresses' collective corner, especially Mann's and Diaz's. They've both done solid, and in Diaz's case, inspired work in gross-out comedies before, but in the main, they conclude the uphill climb of "The Other Woman" just isn't worth it. There's little to recommend the film -- although the review comparing Mann's performance to Jim Carrey's in "The Cable Guy" is fairly intriguing -- the reviews are a funny and thoughtful bunch, especially when they get into the issue of what over-40 actresses and female audiences can expect from contemporary Hollywood.

Reviews of "The Other Woman"

Linda Holmes, NPR

If you can ignore the fact that the moments scattered through the film are decorating such a conceptually odious, stupid-to-the-bone enterprise, some of them may make you laugh. But it may also occur to you just how bad -- how bad -- it is that this is what we have to offer Mann and Diaz, who show themselves in these moments to be really able comic actresses: a story in which they play idiots with no interests of any kind except bickering over an utterly charmless man and then satisfying themselves that giving him explosive diarrhea and prominent nipples constitutes satisfying revenge for his having apparently robbed both of them of whatever souls and outside interests they once possessed.

Ty Burr, Boston Globe

One of those loud, cringe-y female-empowerment comedies that feels like it was made by people who hate women. The movie paints women as dingbats, dummies, and scolds incapable of drawing a breath without a guy to validate them.

Ann Hornaday, Washington Post

The premise -- a group of wronged women confecting revenge on a caddish man -- hews faithfully to Hollywood's most cherished cake-and-eat-it proposition, wherein a film can make its female characters as shrewish, ditzy and cartoonishly desperate as it wants without fear of recrimination because, no matter how bad the gals look, the guys look worse.

Stephanie Zacharek, Village Voice

The basic idea behind "The Other Woman" is perversely progressive: When a straight married man strays in real life, the first person his scorned wife usually blames is the vixen who led him to the whoring bed. The underlying assumption, sexist at heart, is that women are the schemers, men the innocent naïfs. 

Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, the A.V. Club

There are some fart sound effects, transphobic punchlines, and a Cronenbergian long take of serial cheater Mark (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) yawlping and yawling as he shits his brains out in a bathroom stall, but not much in the way of comedy. The result is tolerable only because of Mann’s performance as the manic, fidgety Kate. 

Justin Chang, Variety

There’s room to argue over whether "The Other Woman" (the first-produced screenplay by Melissa K. Stack, whose "I Want to F--- Your Sister" landed on the 2007 Black List) is ultimately a femme-empowering celebration of decency and monogamy, or a hopelessly retrograde portrait of scheming, backbiting women incapable of defining themselves apart from a man, even if it’s a man they happen to despise.

Kate Erbland, Film.com

Despite the film's insistence on portraying how important interpersonal female friendships can be, it doesn't quite have the conviction to make that its sole focus. The film’s second act falls prey to a shoehorned-in romantic subplot that feels both very forced and very stupid, and it dilutes the charming and fresh messaging of the rest of the film.

Christy Lemire, RogerEbert.com

While "The Other Woman" raises some thoughtful questions about independence, identity and the importance of sisterhood, ultimately it would rather poop on them and then throw them through a window in hopes of the getting the big laugh.

Liam Lacey, Globe and Mail

How you respond to "The Other Woman" depends a lot on how you tolerate Mann's performance, a deliberately grating turn (think Jim Carrey in "The Cable Guy," Bill Murray in "What About Bob?") that stomps all over your comfort zone.

Nathan Rabin, the Dissolve

She’s a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown, a dignity-impaired mess of runaway neuroses and withering despair. It's a turn so feverishly committed that it helps camouflage the aching emptiness of the film around her. 

Connie Ogle, Miami Herald

Definitely funny. Goofy, ridiculous, with more gross-out humor than is strictly necessary but still funny. It falls into the category of Girlfriend Films -- as in, go with your girlfriends and leave your date/partner/spouse at home with the PlayStation or the NBA playoffs or the new Malcolm Gladwell book. If you drink, have a glass of wine first. And you will laugh.

Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

Written by newcomer Melissa K. Stack, "The Other Woman" offers roughly equal parts wit and witlessness, casual smarts and jokes, lingering and detailed, regarding explosive bowel movements. Based on that ratio, I'd say the screenwriter's future in Hollywood looks pretty good.

Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle

Written on the knife edge between farce and naturalism by newcomer Melissa K. Stack, it's directed with precision and balance by Nick Cassavetes and put over expertly by the cast. The advertisements might look dumb, but the movie isn't.

This article is related to: Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann


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