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Country: United States
Starring: Natalie Portman, Lisa Kudrow, Lauren Ambrose, Elizabeth Marvel, Charlie Tahan, Daisy Tahan, Anthony Rapp, Scott Cohen
Eye candy: Portman is almost fully naked a couple of times. But never actually naked.
Director: Don Roos
Run time: 119 minutes
DVD distributor: Alliance Films
Natalie Portman shines in The Other Woman, as Emilia, a woman who seduces her married boss, gets pregnant, and gets him to leave his wife to marry her. Their baby girl is born, but tragically dies a few days later. This event informs the rest of Emilia’s life, and she seems to use it as a get-out-of-jail-free card whenever she does something wrong. Emilia must deal with her husband’s bitter, maniac ex-wife (Lisa Kudrow), the scorn of the parents at her stepson’s school, and most of all with her sour, whiny neurotic stepson William (Charlie Tahan).
Most of the film sees Emilia trying to connect with William while they both clearly resent each other. William because his mom is constantly trying to poison him against Emilia, Emilia because her baby died and William is still there. Both characters come off as unlikeable people – Emilia because she’s so self-centred and wears her Dead Kid as a badge, William because he’s so determined not to like his new stepmom.
Over the course of the movie, of course, William begins to grudgingly accept Emilia. And Emilia grows as a person (she’s the only one). But in the end, The Other Woman is nothing more than a vehicle for Portman to emote, and cry, and whine, and get angry.
She is (hypocritically) mad at her womanizing father because of what he did to her mom. But that is just something that gets thrown in for two minutes late in the film, and has no impact. She has to deal with Carolyne (Kudrow), whose bitterness makes life difficult. But she spends only about four minutes in the movie herself, and most of her crazy anger has to be conveyed through the kid. Emilia’s husband Jack (Scott Cohen) is the one who must deal with her, and their relationship is the one most affected by her emotional rollercoaster. But he too is just a bit player in a movie that ends up being way too Portman-heavy. If such a thing is possible. (She does say, at one point, that she weighs only 100 pounds.)
The thing that bothered me most, however, was the Big Twist at the end, where we find out what “really happened” to Emilia’s baby. It’s a sad moment, it changes the whole tone of the movie, but on closer reflection, I found that it kind of negated all the acting Portman had done up to that point. Her reaction to certain things, her using her Dead Baby as a shield justifying all wrongdoing, no longer made any sense. It isn’t Portman’s fault, I think, but it is a problem.
Parts of The Other Woman are familiar to me. I have had similar experiences myself, as a step-father, having to deal with a bitter ex. And I understood that struggle, where Emilia is desperate to make sure the ex doesn’t get angry, and tries very hard not to retaliate tit-for-tat through the kid. But that’s a very small part of a movie that otherwise just doesn’t ring true.