By Colin Covert
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
In “The Other Woman,” they throw everything at the wall to see what sticks.
Most of it does. It’s an escapist women’s empowerment comedy like many others, but elevated by the simple virtue of being, for most of its length, very, very funny.
Set in an upper-class milieu of sleek Manhattan condos, designer clothes and pristine Caribbean beaches, the story follows three women who realize they’re being triple-timed by a cad and join forces to deliver his comeuppance.
Cameron Diaz plays the brains of the operation, a sharp-tongued killer attorney in a whirlwind romance with a handsome executive (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). Leslie Mann is his blithely daffy wife, who is also unaware of his duplicity. When the women discover one another’s existence, the comic sparks fly.
The characters are surprisingly well-developed for this sort of genre fare. Diaz plays her character as a woman of steely intelligence and cynical wit, an alpha female used to stiff-arming her adversaries and bailing out of unsatisfactory emotional entanglements.
Melissa Stack’s bright, farcical screenplay gives this go-getter plenty of tart ammunition.
Mann, an exuberant comedienne, makes a feast of her role, the wronged wife as an innocent, oversharing catalyst of chaos. It’s a career-best performance for Mann, a fizzy brew of vulnerability and pluck.
Smiling a bit desperately, dressed in too-chipper florals, she blathers on with the attention-starved energy of a yapping Chihuahua.
When she tracks down Diaz, it’s not for a resentful wife vs. rival showdown, but because she needs to talk, in breathy-voiced torrents. Since her husband barely notices her, she needs someone, anyone else to fill the void, even if it’s his mistress.
Diaz, whose character can be a bit of a shrew, reluctantly assents to a conversation, but with a one-hour time limit and the understanding that “we’re not going to braid each other’s hair.” They do, of course, during an all-nighter with tequila shots, but the very inevitability of the gag gives their giggly-weepy coming together an ironic charge.