film review: THE OTHER WOMAN

Directed by Don Roos
Written by Don Roos & Ayelet Waldman
Executive Producer: Natalie Portman
Edited by David Codron
Cinematography by Steve Yedlin
USA. 119 minutes. Color.
With: Natalie Portman, Michael Cristofer, Charlie Tahan, Lisa Kudrow, Lauren Ambrose, Debra Monk, Anthony Rapp & Scott Cohen

Why Natalie Portman chose to make “The Other Woman”, the story of Emilia Greenleaf, a woman who initiates an affair with her attorney boss, marries him and becomes the unhappy step mom to his 9-year old son, is anybody’s guess.

The film, directed by Don Roos (“Marley & Me”) from the Ayelet Waldman novel Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, is being marketed as being about Emelia’s difficult relationship with stepson Jack (Charie Tahan). In truth, Emilia is challenged by most of her relationships. That group includes her husband Jack, Sr. (Scott Cohen), his shrewish ex-wife Carolyne (a terrific Lisa Kudrow) and her own dad (Michael Cristofer), a flawed family man who once cheated on Emilia’s mother (Debra Monk).

To show that not all of her relationships suffer; two friends from the law firm where Emilia works and where she met Jack are shoehorned into the script: Simon (“Rent”’s Anthony Rapp) and Mindy (Lauren Ambrose in an underwritten role).

“The Other Woman”’s main problem is that while it has some very good actors among its cast, most of the characters are vastly undeveloped. All too often they come across as little more than contrivances to move the plot along.

For instance, the role of Emilia is essentially a home-wrecker. So Carolyne is written as a cold-hearted materialistic doctor. Also, we will learn through flashbacks that Emilia and Jack lost a baby shortly after they were married to SIDS. Her relationship with her husband feels especially contrived. The two actors have little chemistry and the scenes when he has to play referee between his son and his wife are cringe worthy. Their relationship is challenged by many undermining factors so it comes down to the strength of their relationship whether or not their marriage will survive. In a better movie we’d root for them.

There are some nice moments late into “The Other Woman” including an unexpected turn in Emilia’s relationship with Carolyne something that comes as a welcome surprise and which works. There’s no denying that Portman holds the movie together, she’s learned in her already long career how to command the screen.

As Executive Producer she was wise to cast herself in the lead. After a string of Star Wars sequels and dramatic roles in “Closer” and “Black Swan”, she needs some lighter material to flesh things out. “The Other Woman” won’t be the movie to launch her into the next phase of her career.

Leave a Reply