The classic chick-flick elements are all there in “The Other Woman”:
- Female characters are strong, intelligent and in charge. Check.
- Male characters are absent, indifferent, irrelevant, or downright scads, scoundrels and scumbags. Check.
- Women gain leverage by teaming up with each other; men remain isolated loners. Check.
- Women might talk about sex, but do not show us their body parts. Check.
- Men might be objects of romance, but they are not the main focus in the plot. Check.
- Women might allow themselves to be seen unglamorously, as long as they also have the full hair/makeover/clothes shots. Check.
Is there any originality in this blatant revenge pic? Not a lot. Cameron Diaz plays Carly, the successful attorney who originally thinks Mark (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is “the one,” until she finds out he is married. She’s mad, she feels played, but she’s ready to just not speak to him again and move on. Until his wife, Kate (Leslie Mann), shows up at her door wanting to know all the gory details. Carly’s not really into that, she says, but the women bond anyway because they have something in common: they’ve been cheated by the same man. Worse, still, they do some amateur sleuthing and discover there’s yet another “other woman” in the mix, Amber (Kate Upton, who’s famous mostly for being a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model).
Now the three of them get together and plot some serious revenge. It seems Mark has left himself vulnerable financially because he’s been running corporate scams, complete with offshore accounts. So it’s not enough to embarrass and humiliate him, they also want to see his business career destroyed. “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” and all that, but how about triple indemnity?
Of course our heroines, vindicated and justified, now live happily ever after. Yes, there are comedic moments, but there’s a lot of anger on tap here as well.
There’s also a certain violence against persons dynamic in “Only Lovers Left Alive.” That will happen in vampire movies. But we don’t actually see the bloodshed. Mostly, they’re imbibing the perfect cocktail by purchasing illicitly from a nearby blood bank. Less chance of contaminants that way, you know.
But the two central characters here are Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton), who seem so isolated they may as well be the first man and woman. Or the only man and woman still having a relationship after all these hundreds of years together.
Actually, Eve has been living in Tangiers lately, chumming with Marlowe (John Hurt), who actually did write Shakespeare’s plays (glad we finally got all that cleared up). Marlowe, like an aging Yoda, is about to give up the ghost, but Eve journeys to Detroit, anyway, because her husband/lover, Adam, is so lonely without her that he’s even had the wooden bullet special-ordered – yes, so he can put the stake through his own heart.
The empty neighborhoods in urban Detroit serve as a perfectly eerie, empty backdrop for our nocturnal half-deads, who look too pale, know too much and are so beyond world-weary that they have few connections to anyone outside their private crowded bungalows. But somehow Tilda Swinton carries a certain moonlit luminosity to this role, and Tom Hiddleston, the lean and hungry reclusive rock star, is her perfect foil: someone to romance after all this time in a zombie-like trance of languid awareness, like catnapping jaguars. There’s more originality in five minutes here than in the entire film of “The Other Woman,” and yet, alas, we miss levity and liveliness and ardor, even if it is tinged with anger. Even so, it’s “Only Lovers Left Alive” that shows us what a truly long-term relationship might actually look like.
Yes, these movies are complete opposites. Neither is exactly mainstream. But both are extreme “niche” films that will appeal to widely divergent audiences.
Ronald P. Salfen is the minister at St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church in Irving, Texas.