The Other Woman

23 May

Title: The Other Woman
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Don Roos
Writer: Don Roos, based on the novel by Ayelet Waldman
Starring: 
Natalie Portman, Lisa Kudrow, Scott Cohen, Charlie Tahan, Lauren Ambrose
MPAA Rating: 
R, sexual content and language
Runtime: 
119 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
6.2
Rotten Tomatoes: 
38%

This is the fourth 2011 film starring Natalie Portman I have seen after No Strings Attached, Your Highness and Thor, and considering I have rated none of those in the C-range (I gave them a B+, B- and A-, respectively) I think it should be said that Ms. Portman’s having a very good follow-up year to her tremendous 2010 which saw her pick up the Best Actress Oscar for her sublime performance in Black Swan, which was my favorite film of the year. The Other Woman continues that trend, as it’s one solid little film that has Ms. Portman batting four-for-four in 2011 with Hesher being her fifth and final release in this year which I’ve still to watch.

None of those films get her to give a performance like the one she gave as Nina Sayers in Darren Aronofsky’s masterpiece, but that’s because the role and the film didn’t require such a powerhouse showing from Ms. Portman, and she’s given the performances perfect for the films. In No Strings Attached, a surprisingly good romantic comedy, she’s super funny and cute acting from a pretty cool script by Liz Meriwether, and she’s just what the film needed. In Your Highness it’s the same, that’s the least impressive film of hers this year, but it’s cool to see that Ms. Portman can play a lazy stoner comedy and be totally game for the ridiculous situations she’s put on. Because her 2011 will be remembered as the year in which she showed he definitely had some range, I mean, a racy rom-com alongside Ashton Kutcher, a stoner comedy set in medieval times from the guy that directed Pineapple Express, and playing the romantic interest to a norse god in a superhero blockbuster. She’s done it all this year.

And she continues that trend of picking different roles this year with The Other Woman, in which she plays Emilia, a woman who just lost her newborn daughter with husband Jack, and is now seen trying to connect with his son form his previous marriage, as well as cope with Carolyn, Jack’s jealous ex-wife. And if I liked the film as much as I did, it’s essentially because of Ms. Portman, who delivers a pretty fantastic performance as Emilia that just elevates this film to heights that wouldn’t have been possible had it been left to rely only on Don Roos, who as a director leaves much to be desired and who as a writer, adapting from Ayelet Waldman’s bestselling novel, gives us a script too choked up with melodramatic moments and that leaves it with little breathing space to be anything more than that.

This really is a showcase of Ms. Portman’s skills as an actress, I mean she gets a lot of beefy scenes here, and comes through every single time, really letting us feel Emilia’s pain. And that is especially true in one stand-out scene with Lauren Ambrose, and in the ones she shares with Lisa Kudrow, who plays the ex-wife Carolyn and who’s the next best thing about this film, they are the ones that keep this film going on, and I think that if they had gotten a better director to guide them through it all then the result would have been that much better.

Not to say that everything other than the direction in The Other Woman is just great, because there are obviously other things that don’t work, but in a more free environment I just think Ms. Portman’s performance would’ve been allowed to shine that much more. But, let’s keep on showering the woman with praise for a bit here, because she really is splendid. We get to see how her relationship with Jack started via flashbacks, and get to see how fragile a marriage can turn after such a painful event as losing as child (though, of course, if you want to see a better portrayal of that then go watch last year’s terrific Rabbit Hole), and we get to see Emilia having a huge amount of trouble trying to bond with Jack’s son, and Carolyn angry at having to see the woman that broke up her marriage. And Ms. Portman does a tremendous job to show all of this, it’s not often that a movie’s main character is “the other woman”, much less one with such complex circumstances as Emilia, but Mr. Portman tackles the challenge of playing her head-on, and she delivers in heaps and bounds.

The direction by Mr. Roos however, like I said, ends up limiting this film quite a lot. And that’s not because he took this film to a wrong place, but because it seemed as though he was unsure about which place he wanted to take it to in the first place. Ms. Portman shows here that she’s dynamite at portraying these really difficult sort of emotions, but Mr. Roos for some reason just opts to show them in a way that feels too simple to feel real, and he takes away from her performance by doing so, not to mention that he seemingly never decides on the overall tone he wants the film to have, and it all feels decidedly unbalanced because of that.

There are some terrific scenes in The Other Woman, which is no surprise considering the source material is a fine novel, and the actors here are truly good at playing these scenes, and they all seem like really accurate observations of society nowadays, but for some reason it seems as though these observations have just been meshed together in a way that’s not cohesive at all, which obviously takes away from the end result considerably. And that’s what hurt this movie in the end, that at times it seemed to make little to no sense at all, taking us through complex roads it had no intention of following up on. But, hey, at least it did so with great acting, and that’s really what the film is all about, and because of that I’ll give it a good grade, because I did like it just fine, just interpret my disses to the film here as frustration about how much better it could have potentially been.

Grade: B

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