Friday, February 4, 2011

Movie with Abe: The Other Woman

The Other Woman
Directed by Don Roos
Released February 4, 2011

Though it was filmed several years ago, “The Other Woman” marks Natalie Portman’s third film to be released in three months. This makes an interesting comparison piece after her Oscar-nominated turn as a paranoid, overworked ballerina in “Black Swan” and her lighter comic portrayal of a workaholic medical student determined not to have a committed relationship in “No Strings Attached.” Now she’s playing an entry-level paralegal that ends up married to her boss after an extensive affair with the married man, conveyed via informative flashbacks to fill in the holes in the present-day story of Emilia’s struggle to fit in with her new husband and his young son.

It’s hard to find a truly sympathetic character in “The Other Woman.” Emilia (Portman) is cold in demeanor, rarely boasts a smile, and quickly become impatient with those around her. Her husband’s first wife, Carolyne (Lisa Kudrow) is outright cruel and icy in her interactions with everyone, not just Emilia. Emilia’s husband Jack (Scott Cohen) is a kind-hearted, supportive father, but he’s also an unfaithful husband who became involved with Emilia while he was still married to Carolyne. And then there’s Jack’s son William (Charlie Tahan), who seems to do his best to antagonize Emilia, though it’s important to remember that he’s only a child, and a child of divorce at that.

Having no sympathetic characters isn’t a damning factor for a film, but there needs to be something to make up for that represented in some other element or elements of the film. This feels very much like a film that can’t quite realize the fullness of its potential, working off of an intriguing premise that just doesn’t lend itself to an equally interesting story. Part of the film’s central plot, involving the premature death of Emilia’s baby, feels forced and overly drawn out to make it into something that it’s not. The dialogue feels particularly out of sync with the characters, as if the actors are reading right off a rough draft script and haven’t yet had a chance to prepare their lines or polish their performances. It lends a great air of inauthenticity to a film that never really takes time to develop its characters, fascinating as they could well be. Anyone searching for a moral or cautionary tale in the film will be left wanting, and there isn’t much else for those without an active interest in taking something home from the film with them.


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