Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Other Woman


I’ve always thought a pretty face is as a plus in any movie.  But often if they can’t act it makes me think I’d  would have had a simpler time just googling the actresses image.  Fortunately there are those who can act and Natalie Portman is among them.

Before winning an Oscar as ballerina in Black Swan, this particular pretty face was in a small film called The Other Woman.  Adopted from a book called Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, the movie as its title implies, is a story is about the woman outside of the marriage, or to be more accurate, the woman of the second marriage. 

The closest movie that this film can be associated, as one reviewer online puts it, is Merryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman's Kramer vs Kramer. When the first is about the struggles in a relationship trying to get a divorce, this film is about the second wife trying to get in sync with the husband's world and preserve a little bit of sanity herself. 

If any bashing was done in this movie it’s from the son William (Charlie Tahan). True enough the boy showed, albeit with some childish subtlety, that Emilia is not wanted.  Being a father’s son he tries to be obedient, but having also a mother he is territorial in his own way. 

Unfortunately for the young second wife not everyone is indirect and possessed with childish innocence that would make you easily ignore such an infraction. Besides the son, Emilia also has to deal Jack’s (Scott Cohen) world from wary mothers at school to a nag of an ex-wife in Lisa Kudrow.

All throughout, Emilia is always treated as the villain, perhaps unfairly as the only villain.  The mothers consider her a threat. She consistently has to ignore the stares and whispers in the corridors of William’s school. Carolyn (Lisa Kudrow) on the other hand considers her a disaster waiting to happen, or have happened since the marriage ended up in a divorce.  

Who would not be threatened when a hot young thing just waltzes into the office and a marriage breaks?  But perhaps the question to be asked during the entire film is it fair to lay it all on her? 
 
What made it more interesting in this film is that along with everyone vilifying her, Emilia also vilifies her dad, someone who himself has strayed from marriage, and ultimately she also vilifies herself.  Like many others she is the product of her society who hope that till death do us part really means growing old with the spouse until the inevitable. Any deviation would be considered a disaster, well then again any deviation actually is.

That is until one takes a step back from those expectations and tries to see the humanity in it all. People are imperfect; they make mistakes. Hearts drift apart; kisses can grow cold. Emilia said it best somewhat in resignation, 'not everything works out as you would hope'.  Do people really have to dwell on the disaster?

Casting wise The Other Woman needs more work. Scott Cohen robs whatever saving grace Natalie Portman's character has. Their age gap brings out all the biases one has on older married guy breaking marriage for a hotter young woman. Natalie looks like a toy for Scott and that’s all I get watching the two. 

Lisa Kudrow still sounds the same like she was in Friends, which in fairness strikes me as annoying ex-wife so no problem there.

Natalie Portman is always a delight to watch.   She is the emotional anchor for the entire story.  She carried it.  It’s all about her trying to make it in a world that calls her a home wrecker.  It would added more saving grace as I have mentioned if she and Scott had a little bit more chemistry or more dialogues, but instead she sometimes looks alone in her sincerity.  

So I tried looking at it from the point of view of the title, The Other Woman, then the chemistry or lack thereof suffices.  You will see the emotional ups and downs of a woman whose only mistake (supposedly) is to love and be loved back by a married man.

Perhaps also true in real life, the key for her happiness, in getting past the stigma as the other woman, is the son. Charlie Tahan as the son William and his combination with Natalie is the tandem to look out for. He looked oversized for a child supposedly at 8 years of age, and tall that it took me a while to convince myself that they were stepmother and son.  I just focused on the dialogue and it worked.

William was a thorn on her side; he has seen her through the ups and downs; and ultimately he is the salvation.  That salvation is nothing but a child’s acceptance of what is.  He sees no broken hearts or relationships; no obligations that should have lasted until death.  He has a mother and a father; a sister who tragically died as a baby, and what he says as “my sister’s mom”, Emilia.  That is his family.

After that the pretty face does what she does best aside from impeccably fulfilling a role to a tee. She smiles.