Don Roos’ The Other Woman opens with the thumping beat of The Flaming Lips’ “Do You Realize?”, a song that serves both as an on the nose explication of the film to come and a warning to those who watch. “You realize that life goes fast/It’s hard to make the good things last…” In other words, get out while you still can.
At its core, The Other Woman is a sappy melodrama, a fact apparently lost on Mr. Roos. For at least half of the film’s duration, he seems to think he is making a romantic comedy. The romance is lackluster and the comedy is nigh non-existent.
The film follows Emilia, played by Natalie Portman, a full grown woman-child who lands a job as an associate at a non-descript New York lawfirm. After a chance encounter (thanks to some out-of-place slapstick) with one of the firm’s brooding partner’s, Jack (Scott Cohen), Emilia falls head over heels in love and spends a good ten minutes pining for him. Then, he assigns her to some busy work in another town, they share hotel rooms, and the wheels are in motion for her to become “the other woman” who breaks up Jack’s marriage. At the film’s open, they are married and have lost a child not even a week old.
Portman, who also served as executive producer on the project, has trouble filling out the role of a young Manhattanite who married for money. There is something awkward about her essence in this film; the way she walks, the way she peers around the frame. The actress, not the character, feels like a fish out of water. To be fair, the script is desperately wooden, featuring expository blurts throughout. Perhaps her source material didn’t offer enough guidance, but at the very least I presume a movie star could walk around in high-heel boots without looking like she’ll topple at any moment. Emilia can not.
I can put all of that aside, however. If The Other Woman is a classical melodrama, it is a weak one at best. The conflict takes too long to appear, the main character isn’t sympathetic and the obstacles to happiness are too easily overcome. Emilia is weak both as a character and as a woman. There are reveals galore (how, why, when did her baby die?) but no one learns anything. The hero mustn’t always get her way (in this idyllic case, she does) but she should have a better understanding of her inner self after the journey of the film. By the end, Emilia is poised to make all of the same mistakes again. Here’s to the depressing sequel.