Good guys are hard to come by. But Carly, a high-powered New York lawyer, thinks she might've found one. Mark is handsome and suave and drives a killer car. He gives her flowers and surprises her with jewelry. He's a man with a twinkle in his eye, no halitosis to speak of and a seven-figure bank account. For Carly, Mark King seems practically perfect in every way—almost too good to be true.
Kate King would agree. She knows that her husband is kind, funny, supportive and outrageously successful. His only flaw in her book is that he works pretty late sometimes, and business often calls him away on the weekends. But, hey, he does it all for her, right?
Then one night—the night Mark is supposed to meet Carly's dad—Mark tells Carly he's gotta go home to Connecticut instead. Seems a pipe burst in his basement and he'll have to fix it. What a shame. So Carly, after a bit of thought (and some encouragement by her father) decides to cheer up her one-and-only with a surprise visit. She shows up on his doorstep in a stripper-worthy plumber's outfit, rings the doorbell and saucily swings a plunger as she waits for Mark to—
No, wait. This isn't Mark at the door. Who is it? Another woman? His wife? Awkward!
'Course, even that's not nearly as awkward as when Kate stops by Carly's law offices the next day. Or the following evening, when Kate pounds on Carly's apartment door, toting fast food to share. Weird? Surely. But it seems Kate doesn't have a friend in the world, and given that her whole world's fallen apart she needs someone to talk to—even if that someone is her husband's mistress.
With Kate and Carly now besties (unbeknownst to a still clueless Mark), and with Mark having so much unexpected time on his hands now … well, the guy's got to get a hobby, right?
Like, maybe, another mistress?
Carly and Kate's friendship is a little like Captain Ahab sending BFF texts to a certain white whale. By all rights, they should hate each other. And sometimes they do. But a curiously supportive friendship sprouts from this pile of relational manure. Carly gives Kate the strength to stand up to her two-timing (and three-timing and four-timing) man and start again. Kate softens some of Carly's harder edges. And once they team up with another of Mark's conquests—the somewhat ditzy Amber—they form quite the formidable triumvirate. (How they use their power is not quite as appealing, but we'll deal with that plenty later.)
There's a line about a "hot rabbi."
The Other Woman is about infidelity, and the concept of waiting to have sex 'til marriage—or waiting to have sex for any reason—is routinely belittled.
Since that's not quite enough to say in this section, I'll report that while no critical body parts get explicit screen time in this PG-13 comedy, we do see some sultry sexual contact. Carly and Mark make out furiously. And they squirm around on a bed. Mark and Kate kiss and grope on a bed a couple of times. It's implied that they have sex.
Mark kisses and touches other women as well and later admits to having had at least five affairs. He's not the only man here with trouble settling down. Carly's father, Frank, is wrapping up his fifth divorce (with one of Carly's "sorority sisters"). He later dates and apparently marries another attractive twentysomething who has the words "Just Married" embroidered on her very skimpy bikini bottom. Carly's assistant, Lydia, downplays the idea of breaking up marriages and insists a married man is perfect for Carly's harried lifestyle. "Selfish people live longer," she says.
Other women also dress in bikinis and getups that bare a great deal of skin. Frank meets Carly, Kate and Amber in a restaurant called No Hands, where pretty female Asian attendants sensually rub your shoulders and physically feed you. There are lines about sexting, the frequency of sexual encounters, how many places sexual encounters happened, prison rape, sexual organs, skinny dipping, venereal diseases, the proper presentation of pubic hair and the sexual habits of the French. There's a suggestion to have a threesome—with a heavily bearded transvestite. We see ladies looking through a huge collection of skimpy, see-through undergarments.
One somewhat positive note: When Carly develops a thing for Kate's brother, Phil, and staggers into his bed, drunk and naked, Phil does not take advantage of the lady.
Someone runs into a glass wall—bloodying his face and shattering the glass. A guy is punched in the face. Kate tackles Carly on a beach and the two comically wrestle. Carly is pushed out a window and wrecks a pergola. Kate trashes Mark's office, pulling down shades and smashing holes in things with her hubby's golf clubs.
Crude or Profane Language
The f-word is mouthed twice (and accompanied with obscene hand gestures). The s-word is spoken at least 35 times, and a variety of other curse words include "a‑‑," "b‑‑ch," "d‑‑n," "h‑‑‑" and "p‑‑‑." Crude references are made to genitals and breasts, along with derogatory terms like "whore" and "slut." God's name is misused a dozen or more times, and Jesus' name is abused thrice.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Maybe Mark got so rich by buying stock in alcohol. Everyone here consumes a lot of it, after all, guzzling wine, tequila, vodka, whiskey, champagne, etc. During their first meeting, Kate and Carly go to a bar where Kate gets completely wasted: She throws up in her handbag, and Carly needs to physically stuff her in a waiting car. The next night at Carly's house, the two get schnockered, eventually passing out on the couch. At Phil's beach house, the three women drink again to excess. Amber asks if she's allowed to smoke, and Kate says she wants to start smoking too. (There's a hint that what they're wanting to smoke isn't just tobacco.)
Other Negative Elements
As part of their revenge scheme, Carly mixes a laxative into Mark's whiskey and water at a restaurant. We subsequently hear embarrassing noises, and Mark spends a great deal of time thrashing around in a bathroom stall and then trying to find new pants. Kate also secretly gives Mark hormones that cause his nipples to grow and replaces his shampoo with hair remover. She brushes her dog's teeth with his toothbrush and rinses it off in the toilet.
Speaking of the dog, we see it defecate in Carly's apartment, and there are jokes about the beast's testicles. Kate sits on a toilet while conversing with Mark.
The Other Woman is a comedy based on the very serious themes of infidelity and divorce. But that, in itself, is not all that shocking. Cheating spouses have long been comedic fodder.
It's just that to pull off "good" cheating jokes you've got to, paradoxically, have a clear idea of why cheating is so wrong. There's got to be an understanding that it's a betrayal of love and commitment—an upending of the God-designed union between a man and a woman, and the corruption of one of His greatest gifts to us.
This film doesn't really get that.
"Everything fails eventually and monogamy is not natural," Carly tells Kate. And even though The Other Woman is meant to be a story of female empowerment and friendship, Carly's cynicism sneaks in. This is Carly's world, full of sex, attraction and betrayal—but very little romance (that's not false) or affection (except among friends). Not only is Kate's marriage wrecked, but even her desire for a happy marriage seems, in the context of the story, a naive desire—one to overcome and move past. Love? The first mention of the word I can remember is in the postscript.
When Lydia tells Carly that dating married men seems perfect for her, Carly rejects the idea not because it's wrong, but because she's too old for that sort of thing. When Kate discovers Mark's cheating ways, the movie gives her a choice between living with it and leaving—a choice, again, not between right and wrong, but about how much deception she can live with. In that postscript, two characters "fall in love" and get preggers. And the guy who is known to get married does so for the sixth time to a girl a third his age.
When one embraces a world in which morality is relative and commitment naive, it's tricky to then insist that infidelity is bad. And as such, The Other Woman ties itself up in unfunny knots.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Cameron Diaz as Carly Whitten; Leslie Mann as Kate King; Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Mark King; Don Johnson as Frank; Kate Upton as Amber; Taylor Kinney as Phil; Nicki Minaj as Lydia
Nick Cassavetes (My Sister's keeper, Alpha Dog, The Notebook, John Q)
20th Century Fox
April 25, 2014
Paul Asay Paul Asay