The Other Woman: Gals, Don’t Do That

I read a review in the NYT of The Other Woman (the 2014 movie) that made it sound so bad I simply had to see it for myself. I finally got a chance to rent it last night, and now that I’ve seen it, there’s something I need to get off my chest. The pun, which will become apparent below, is acknowledged but not intended.

The story is, basically: insecure Connecticut housewife Kate King (Leslie Mann) finds out her husband Mark (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is cheating on her with gorgeous lawyer Carly (Cameron Diaz), so she befriends Carly and the two of them plot their revenge on Mark. Then they find out he’s also fucking a sweet young thing named Amber (Kate Upton), so they recruit her into their circle and involve her in their scheme to ruin his life.

I was told the movie was offensively sexist, only occasionally funny, and that the man at the center of this revenge scheme was “charmless.” I simply had to see the movie just to see if it was possible to make Nikolaj Coster-Waldau seem charmless. I can’t believe that unless I see it for myself. The movie was nowhere near as bad as I was told to expect. Granted, I thought the jousting dwarves on Game of Thrones were hilarious, I was laughing right along with Joffrey, so my sense of humor is not such a good example, but I found The Other Woman to be, for the most part, a good piece of mindless, slapstick entertainment. I’d say it’s moderately sexist rather than offensively so. The writing is surprisingly clever; not quite strong enough to convince me of Kate and Carly’s need to go out of their way to find Amber, but it sold me on the idea that it would not be sufficient to send Mark pictures of the three of them dancing together on a beach in the Bahamas. No, he’s a dishonest, unethical piece of shit and he needs to be punished. I’m with them there. If the movie was trying to make Nik C-W seem charmless, they failed miserably; the character is despicable but the performance is perfectly charming and funny. I can see why these three attractive women would become sufficiently invested in him to get angry enough to plot their revenge when they learn of his infidelity. I didn’t like Nicki Minaj’s character, and I’m even more troubled by the fact that the only person of color with any substance in the movie is so incredibly obnoxious, but she does have some funny things to say. It’s well-acted all around. Diaz and Mann are hilarious together, and Kate Upton is perfectly likable. It’s not especially thoughtful or original comedy, but it’s plenty entertaining.

There was just…this one…part, where I found myself unable to turn off my brain and enjoy the ridiculousness. It was plenty ridiculous, but it failed at being funny. It was disturbing, excessive, and not amusing, and this morning I finally figured out what it was about that one scene that grossed me out so hard.

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Bradley Cooper, will you just write a freaking book?

The Words is the second movie I’ve seen in which Bradley Cooper plays a guy who wants to be a novelist but is having a difficult time getting started. In both movies, his character cheats in some way to get over the initial hump, but in Limitless, at least the creativity is his. Oh, and Limitless is not a waste of two perfectly good hours.

The lessons of The Words are, basically:

1. The publishing industry is so fucked up that it kind of, sort of, forces otherwise well-meaning writers to plagiarize.

2. Always save duplicate copies of your manuscript, even if you don’t keep them all in safe places.

Also: Jeremy Irons needs to learn a better American accent. Dude, if you don’t like the way we sound, then don’t play us in movies.

 

Merida is a raging badass.

In a day that was way more trouble than it was worth until the movie began, I went downtown and saw Brave.

First of all: fabulous movie. Totally worth the endless procession of ads and previews the theater made us sit through before they started the feature.

Second: surprisingly enough, I actually don’t mind the trope of the fierce redhead heroine. As a person who had to go through the hassle of growing up a red-haired child, I think there’s some truth to the idea of redhead girls as ferocious and independent. It’s not that we’re born that way, it’s that we develop that way as a survival mechanism. If you had to deal with the attention that I did growing up, you’d be fierce and stubborn, too.

It is a very thoughtful, nuanced study of a mother-daughter relationship, first and foremost. It wouldn’t be a kids’ movie if they did an honest exploration of the horrors of forced marriage, but they give the topic its due within the limits of the target audience by pointing out that actually, it is not in the interests of a couple of teenagers to be set up in a marriage for reasons other than that they have actually gotten to know each other and decided they want to marry. Most of all, it’s about the relationship between Merida and her mother, Elinor. If there’s a basic no-brainer life lesson, it is: when you purchase a magic spell to make your mom act differently, you need to be specific about the changes to be made. Otherwise you will end up turning your mom into a dangerous wild animal and plunging your kingdom into pandemonium. Just saying.

 

That’s one way to do it.

If Cameron Crowe’s goal in making Elizabethtown was to make Kentuckians look like a bunch of ridiculous assholes, he certainly got the job done. It’s really not very interesting, though, to assure the audience that “flyover” territory isn’t worth visiting, if you don’t have any brave new insights into what makes the difference. “Oh, look, rural Southerners are empty-headed hicks, I’m so original!” Yawn.

Since I live on the East Coast, would they insist that I’m from New York?

 

I have a confession to make.

Picture the most godawful, intelligence-insultingly bad movie ever, but make sure it’s full of perky boobs, and what you bring to mind will describe Showgirls.

Yes, that will be the confession: I have seen Showgirls. (Shut up, this is what Netflix is for. It’s so you can satisfy your curiosity about shitty movies at minimal expense.)

I’ll give it this much: it is so hilariously stupid that it crosses well into “so bad it’s good” territory. So I don’t regret having put it into my Netflix queue nearly as much as a dull downer like Margot at the Wedding or an incomprehensible WTF-fest like Synecdoche, New York. However, I do have a suggestion for something that probably would have made it even more fun to watch.

Less of that James dude, more of Elizabeth Berkley making out with Gina Gershon.

The whole storyline with James is pointless; it leads precisely nowhere and it contributes nothing to the plot. It’s not even anywhere near as entertaining as most of the dance numbers or nekkid scenes. It lends nowhere near the pathos that the director seems to think it does. So, since the movie is obviously invested in hot nekkid bodies far more than in plausible storytelling or coherent characterization, just cut out everything with James after he bails her out of jail (or just have Molly bail her out of jail, for that matter), and fill up the extra time with more of Nomi locking lips with Cristal. Because that part was hot, the storyline was even kind of compelling, and the payoff took way too damn long.

But all that said, I also found it kind of jarring to see Elizabeth Berkley’s mostly godawful performance in this terrible movie. I kept seeing Jessie’s face from Saved by the Bell and was all offended to see her portraying this nonsensical character. It’s like part of my adolescence has been vandalized. Although, the part where Nomi beats the shit out of that Andrew Carver creep? Awesome.

“Let’s put Cher and Christina Aguilera in a movie together! Wouldn’t that be fun?!”

Burlesque looks like someone thought it would be a good idea to cross-breed Moulin Rouge with Coyote Ugly and rip off the shiny parts of Chicago while they were at it. It has neither the storytelling skills at work in Moulin Rouge nor the sense of humor, and while Coyote Ugly was not much a movie in itself, it showed far more sincerity and backbone than Burlesque. We didn’t need a movie to show us that Christina Aguilera is a far better singer than Nicole Kidman, but apparently we did need a movie to show us that she’s not even half the actress.

There are some effective moments, such as: Alan Cumming threatening to wash Aguilera’s mouth out with Jagermeister, Aguilera hiding behind ostrich-feather fans while wearing nothing but a few strategically placed strings of pearls, and Cher moving towards a mother-figure role with Aguilera, but they’re all very brief and truncated. The trope of “humble but talented girl from middle of nowhere makes good in big city” is satisfying if done right, but the script has no interest in taking the time to develop Aguilera’s character, and she is far too pleased with herself to make us care about Ali from Iowa.

Eat Pray Love, but don’t show a gut on film

There is something profoundly obnoxious about a couple of really skinny women making a show of struggling into new jeans after eating pizza. I’m sitting there thinking, “Listen, gals, why don’t you try closing a new pair of jeans over MY hips and MY gut,” while they don’t even show the slightest of muffin tops. I get that if a super-skinny woman suddenly becomes slightly-less-skinny, she will need to buy new clothes just like an average-size woman who becomes slightly larger, but would it really have been so difficult to make Julia Roberts and Tuva Novotny look like they’ve actually gained a little Neopolitan pizza pudge?

(However, on a different note: the movie does not take pains to make Italy look like a lovely, romantic place. It looks dirty, dilapidated, unconstructed and chaotic, and Liz Gilbert loves it anyway. I appreciate that honesty. Additionally, I fucking DARE any horny Roman jackass to run up and grab my generous American caboose. Hope you enjoy my sensibly shod foot up your balls, cupcake!)

Blow

Here’s the lesson learned from watching Blow (2001, Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz):

If you make tens of millions of dollars as a drug dealer…

DO NOT STORE ALL YOUR MONEY IN A SINGLE ACCOUNT.

Especially when that single account is in a country whose culture and political climate you do not understand very well. Leave that much money sitting around in one place, and you never know what might happen to it.

When you’re sitting on $60 million from selling Colombian cocaine, spread it over several bank accounts, preferably in several countries. Eggs, baskets and all that.

(I’m sure that’s not really the lesson I was supposed to draw from the movie. It’s more about the dangers of working with criminals, and the ephemeral nature of wealth. For practical purposes, however? Get more than one bank account, or your ass belongs to Panama.)