I defend my habit of watching garbage movies by telling people that part of my job is to be able to talk about pop cultural touchstones without sounding like a hack (results: mixed). But the truth is I've got a weakness for glossy Hollywood tripe and I'd probably have watched The Other Woman even if it wasn't ruling the box office despite every reviewer describing it as a cinematic pile of turds. I just wouldn't have done it drunk and alone on a Monday.
I suggested doing this to myself; self-guinea-pigging can be fun and sometimes makes for a good personal essay. After work, I make my way to the bar downstairs and down the block from my office, alone. I sit at the bar alone while two bored bartenders flirt with each other. I drink IPA and play 2048 until I felt sufficiently stupid and claustrophobic, pay, get up and leave.
Two beers are not enough to make me feel even the slightest of buzzed, so on my way to the theater, I stop at an Irish Pub called RYAN'S and hope I get carded, so I can then make a joke about how I own "this joint" because my last name is also Ryan. To my disappointment, no one cards me and the bartender looks a lot like my ex boyfriend, the one I'd lived with in Chicago five years ago. Fuck. FIVE YEARS AGO? My life is falling away from me, right out from under my feet. I get the Duck Tales theme song stuck in my head and am delighted to discover that I still know all of the words. I want to tell someone but my ex boyfriend's doppelganger is flirting with the two girls at the bar who aren't wearing glasses, tearing the cardboard coaster into pieces and humming Disney afternoon theme songs. Naturally.
Maybe I am a little buzzed.
I feel like if I wanted the experiment to be true to the spirit of the the sad vision I'd formulated in my head, I'd have to drink in the theater. So I buy one sad single tiny bottle of Maker's Mark from a liquor store across the street. The clerk calls me "sweetheart" and I say, reflexively, "IT'S FOR WORK!" Ok, she responds.
The theater is mostly empty, save for one couple (WHY?) and a trio of giggling women and one creepy guy who sat two seats down from me who I convince myself is probably also drunk but also maybe likely to start masturbating the very second Kate Upton bounces onscreen. The fear that I may catch a surprise dick in my peripheral vision casts a fun, dangerous pall over the whole viewing experience.
The director of The Other Woman is Nick Cassavetes, who directed The Notebook. That's John Cassavetes's kid. For the entirety of the film, I can hear the faint whine of the deceased cinema verite pioneer spinning in his grave.
I expect the film to be very, very bad. The Stranger called it "A Shit Sandwich Wrapped in Shit, Lovingly Placed in a Bag Made Entirely of Shit." The AV Club gives it a C-, saying the film is best summarized by a scene where a dog poops on Cameron Diaz's floor. And the film has a 26% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
This is not a good movie.
It's about a rich, successful lawyer played by Cameron Diaz who starts dating this guy who she thinks is just great at first. But then, after two months of hot and heavy doin' it, she drives to his house in Connecticut to surprise him only to discover that he's married to Leslie Mann. This doesn't go over well, since Diaz didn't know that the whole time she was dating what she thought was THE PERFECT GUY, his wife was puttering around his Connecticut palace in floral bathrobes flanked by an enormous black and white Great Dane, none the wiser. Mann finds out where Diaz works and shows up ranting and raving with her massive dog in tow. Mann is a Lilly Pulitzer designed anxiety pill. Cameron Diaz is a line of cocaine who lives in a pristine glass box of an apartment. They become unlikely allies without the knowledge of the cheating husband. They are a study in contrasts. There is a montage. Then the Great Dane shits on the floor.
You see the poop, too. Really clearly. There are also sounds.
Right after the dog shit, I stole a glance at the creepy guy two seats away. Yep. Dick still in pants. We're good.
The two women, wife and unintentional mistress, realize that there may in fact be a third woman in the mix. They follow the husband — who is somehow rich despite the fact that he spends literally all of his time neck deep in poon— to a beach house, where they discover that he has another girlfriend, a human pile of boobs named Kate Upton. Kate Upton has a rare medical condition that renders her unable to run at a normal speed. In slow motion, she boobs herself around, driving her boyfriend's wife and other girlfriend mad with jealousy during a sequence on a beach that culminates with tackling.
This movie is telling me that goal of being a woman is to win at womaning. That means have the biggest tits and be the youngest and have the prettiest mouth. Even if you're motherfucking Cameron Diaz or Leslie Goddamn Mann or Kate Flipping' Upton, there is another woman that is better than you, who a man will leave you for, or insist on augmenting you with. It's an incredibly cynical message. I begin thinking about the men in my life I've trusted — boyfriends, friends, my brother, my father — and wondering how they're the same species as the cheating, nondescript Ken doll in the film.
I feel myself tearing up. Leslie Mann deserves so much better than this. I hope she is being paid in thousand dollar bills being delivered to her via bulldog puppy. I imagine a tiny Oregon Trail style wagon full of money and pulled by a bulldog puppy in a harness and laugh at a moment when there is no laugh line in the film. Creepy man shoots me some side eye. I look back and see he's casually resting his hand on his crotch.
My tiny bottle of Maker's Mark is empty and I am full on drunk. The plot begins to unravel and become more dense with shit jokes. Lady Gaga's IRL boyfriend plays Leslie Mann's brother, who starts falling in love with Cameron Diaz, which is sort of gross and weird when you think about it, lusting after your married boyfriend's brother-in-law. The three women who have for months been dancing around Jamie Lanister's cock like they're decorating a Maypole, all unaware of each other, begin to bond. They discover that he has a fourth girlfriend, and they vow to Get Revenge.
I'm very drunk, too drunk to be aware of how bad things are because as they happen my brain isn't processing them; my memory of the plot now exists in patches. The women plot to feed him estrogen and his nipples get all puffy. They trick him into having a threesome with a bearded trans woman (real fresh stuff!). There is more shitting, so much more shitting. Agonized shitting. A gratuitous trip to the Bahamas so Upton can jiggle around some more. She is a very pretty human, and a very bad actress.
In the end, the philandering man ends up alone and all three women's story lines are resolved. Leslie Mann becomes a businesswoman. Cameron Diaz and Mr. Lady Gaga get together. Kate Upton starts dating Cameron Diaz's father, a completely unnecessary character played by Don Johnson in a performance so slimy that when I used the bathroom after the film, it burned when I peed. Girl power!
If I'd gone in with no expectations of the movie's badness, I would have found this film upsetting. But I was prepped; I knew that every appearance of Nikki Minaj, Cameron Diaz's Black Friend/Secretary (frienretary!), would end with a shot of her ass. And I knew that the women in the film would spend the whole film talking about men. And I knew that I'd find Cameron Diaz's character's professional success baffling given her inability to keep her shit under control (imagine that character studying for the bar. You can't!) I knew it would be sexist bullshit masquerading as empowerment. I didn't expect all the shitting, and I didn't expect to be sitting two seats away, in a nearly empty theater, from a man who never full on whipped his dick out, but who was lovingly, gently, slowly stroking himself through his pants.
Everything was not terrible about this film. Leslie Mann is a flawless treasure and I will fight anyone who challenges this assertion. Cameron Diaz is fun to watch, and the two are a compelling onscreen comedy duo during the first half of the film. And, as bad as it is, it's a film starring three women, with a screenplay written by a woman, and it's cleaning the fuck up at the box office. If we're going to go hunting for a silver lining here, perhaps this film's success will bode well for the fates of less-bad movies written by, directed by, or starring women.
Shitting on The Other Woman is, I predict, going to be a fairly common exercise over the next couple of weeks, just as shitting on Sex and the City II was a whole thing when that awful abortion of a film hit theaters. But terrible, horrible, no good, very bad movies starring men are released every week, making bank despite the fact that they stink to high heaven. The critical shredding of those films somehow doesn't seem as gleeful as the shredding of films like The Other Woman (example: these two gents). Does this movie suck? Yes. Was last night one of the saddest sadsack experiences of my life since moving to New York City? Absolutely; the highlight of the evening was literally me not seeing a stranger's penis. But The Other Woman's impending cleanup at next year's Razzies may not be as deserved as the reviews make it sound.
Then again, this could just be the hangover talking.