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Danielle Henderson Savages The Other Woman in Best Review Ever

Oh how I love a good bad review but in this case a female writer unleashes her pent up fury against not just The Other Woman but the whole concept of the suffocating genre known as the rom-com, defined here as product to lure female kind into man-hating mode — but only because they are drawn to cads who hurt them repeatedly. This is a revenge fantasy that many women might not be able to resist. At the same time the only thing the press deems worth noting about this movie is the introduction of Kate Upton’s massive boobs to cinema. This is Bo Derek running down the beach with corn rows in Ten, a movie remembered for nothing else. Most of us just kind of endure this torture but The Stranger’s Danielle Henderson took a nice big juicy bite. I love it because so many people will be upset by this review. I love to see a woman venting anywhere but especially writing on film on the internet because they are often bullied into being “nice” and “polite” by men who tag them as bitches (which they often define as “feminists”). So I often wait for any film critic to grow a pair and dive right in. I’ve been waiting a very long time. Most either do not exist anymore or prefer to “blend in” and not define themselves as “feminist” or biased against film based on their sex. But in so doing, it is like the queen on the chess board playing the game as a pawn. Maybe as a bishop but mostly as a pawn. But here you seen the queen with all of her armor intact, and dominating the board:

The Other Woman is an exercise in futility, pointing out all the ways women should be punished for existing.

This is a movie starring three women and it still does not pass the Bechdel test, because the focus of our ovary-having lives should clearly be focused on landing some primetime dick, which comes to us in the form of beady-eyed leading man Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. All of the lead actresses (Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, and Kate Upton) are as close to the patriarchal ideal as you can get and they still don’t measure up, so the filmmakers create a gauntlet of fuckery to remind them how disgusting, flawed, and monstrous they are. That this is all done in the name of sisterhood is the final kick to the uterus the filmmakers think we deserve.

Hey, I’m all about the primetime dick – a worthy pursuit – but is all there is?

The point of this movie is not sisterhood, but making sure women band together in the name of heterosexual competition. Cameron Diaz is too sexy, Leslie Mann is too frumpy, and Kate Upton is boobs, but boobs that are not good enough to keep a man goddammit. Nicki Minaj joins this horror show as the Sassy Black Secretary™ (it’s 2014, right?), filmed from the ass out in every scene just to make sure Ida B. Wells does a few extra spins in her grave. But the casual racism doesn’t end with Nicki Minaj’s Hottentot Venus treatment—oh fuck no! Cameron Diaz’s dad (played by slimy, reanimated Don Johnson) takes her to his favorite restaurant; it’s called No Hands, because the Thai women servers will not let you touch anything, and just sort of hang behind you, placing bottles to your lips and food in your mouth. When the object of their revenge is fed estrogen for a while and his nipples swell up like pencils, he nervously comments that he should be featured in an “African documentary”. They throw in a joke about transgender for good measure, then everyone ends up in the Bahamas, where they drive the topless Jeep of colonialism over the bodies of my disenfranchised ancestors.

Another great review from NPR’s Linda Holmes (thanks to Stacy for pointing it out):

It is the most grotesque pantomime of girl power, these beautiful women clinking glasses and ultimately trading what must be the weakest and least earned high-five in cinema history after executing a plot made possible by one of their daddies and done with considerably more panache in the painfully generic but at least mildly agreeable 1987 Michael J. Fox film The Secret of My Success.

Now, you probably might agree, as some commenters over at The Stranger do, that this is misappropriated anger. Surely this film doesn’t take itself too seriously and we might cut it some slack because it was written by a woman. The point isn’t whether this film deserves this wrath. The point is there aren’t enough angry women writers out there nailing Hollywood for its outdated tropes directed at women. Many of us sit on our hands or bite our inner cheeks at the way too-polite female writers out there who prefer to just get along in this absurd universe of narrative film where women are reduced to the sum of their body parts and are measured almost solely by how attractive they are to men. I am old enough to remember a time when women were worth a lot more on film than they are today.

39 Comments on this Post

  1. Not every film strives to be social commentary, nor should it. I do not know what film she was expecting to walk into when she reviewed it. I believe a great deal of her moments of discourse were even in the trailer. As a film journalist she should be a little more objective

  2. Are You Kidding?

    “Hypergamy doesn’t care.”

    This film looks to play up to outrageous stereotypes, concerning the lengths women will go to to get back at a cad. But you know what, you, I and everyone else subconsciously understand that these men are irresistible to women. We see it everyday. Men that are “womanizers” tend to be very successful on the dating market. It’s not going away anytime soon.

  3. I was just having this discussion last night. We were talking about Frozen’s reaching the $400M milestone and that two of the three films last year to do that were female centric.

    Two of my friends saw The Other Woman and both loved it. They asked me if I was going to see it, I said unless I hear some extra ordinary reviews probably not. I have 0 interest in watching a film about three women fighting with and over the same man. To prove my point I asked them the central question of the Bechtel Test, which they could not argue for the film to pass.

    I do not use the Bechtel Test to validate a films potential, but the central idea of it is to point out the trend of women characters to be well rounded. Hell I want all characters to be well rounded.

    In the light of last year’s box office successes: Hunger Games, Frozen, and Gravity along with Cate Blancett’s wonderful acceptance speech, I am hoping that we will start to see well rounded three dimensional female characters.

    On a side note, this flowchart is wonderful: http://www.overthinkingit.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/Overthinking-It-Female-Character-Flowchart.png

  4. NIce guys finish last and assholes get the girl. I see it in the movies but I see it far more in real life. Nothing new here.

  5. @Nic

    Not all movies are meant to be social commentary, but all movies reflect in some way the society in which they are being made. What does the fact that a movie like “The Other Woman” being made say about our society?

  6. Congratulations to Cameron Diaz, etc, for showing us that audiences will show up to see a proven bonafide female star in a movie. Quite encouraging.

  7. What bothers feminists about movies like The Other Woman isn’t that they are wrong but that they fear they are right.

  8. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    The Other Woman isn’t right about women. Neither are The Hangover I, Hangover II, Hangover III right about men.

    I don’t fear those movies and none of those movies bothers me because I don’t go see shit movies and I don’t care if anybody else goes to see the shit movies I don’t see.

  9. ‘As a film journalist she should be a little more objective’

    As a human being, she has no obligation to be objective. I review films every day on my blog, and never once have I striven to be objective. Nobody reads a critic’s writing for objectivity, or perhaps nobody ought to. It’s one person’s opinion you’re reading, and I’d rather have honesty over objectivity any day.

    Danielle Henderson can be objective when Hollywood starts being objective in its treatment of gender. Fuck it, not just Hollywood, when society stops being so fucking sexist.

  10. “The Other Woman isn’t right about women. Neither are The Hangover I, Hangover II, Hangover III right about men.”

    Now, now. The Hangover sequels are certainly terrible, but the first one is actually a clever, funny movie. No, it is not the definitive film for male behavior, but it never makes itself out to be that, either.

  11. Bryce Forestieri

    Excuse me.

    Podcast?

  12. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    No, [The Hangover] is not the definitive film for male behavior, but it never makes itself out to be that, either.

    I suppose that’s where I stumble in understanding the anger about The Other Woman. Is the Other Woman trying to make itself out to be a definitive examination of female behavior? From the trailers it looks to me like a coarse stupid movie — and turns out that’s exactly what it is. Why are smart people wasting time with it?

    In a nutshell, I don’t get why we’re talking about the stupidest movie at the multiplex. Shouldn’t we be looking for the best movies at the multiplex?

    Movies of any genre are all about oddball situations with people in extreme circumstances behaving strangely. That can be really interesting. But mass audiences are drawn to easy simple-minded stereotypes so the oddball circumstances in most movies are just silly instead of interesting.

    I get bored seeing movie after movie featuring man-child peter-pan syndrome male characters too, but my solution to that boredom is just to never watch those movies or think about them or write about them or care about them.

    Wait, what I do like is when stupid movies are just so very very stupid that they fail under the weight of their own stupidity, so in that respect I’m glad The Hangover movies got increasing stupider and stupider, and I’m glad that dumb rom-coms are dumb because maybe smart people will stop expecting them to be anything else.

    There’s a deeply touching romantic movie called The Railway Man that isn’t entirely successful but at least it’s got a nicely written and wonderfully real romance holding it all together. We should be talking about The Railway Man instead of this Other Woman piece of shit.

    I guess before we can talk about The Railway Man I’ll have to write something to post about it, so I need to stop complaining about things I don’t want to talk about and create some posts about things that I do want to talk about.

    I’ll do that.

  13. “At the same time the only thing the press deems worth noting about this movie is the introduction of Kate Upton’s massive boobs to cinema.”

    In all due respect, Sasha, you’re putting up the same picture of Kate Upton that every critic and blogger put up.

  14. “This is a movie starring three women and it still does not pass the Bechdel test.”

    This reviewer clearly has a hair across her ass. She asserts as fact that in a 90+ minute film with three female leads, there isn’t one moment where the women don’t discuss something other than a man. I call B.S.

    Considering how many crap films there are out here with male protagonists, I’d much prefer there also be crap films about females. And then when one is making money, it’s better than not.

    I get why Sasha likes the review and champions it. But, perhaps Sasha might also take a glass half-full approach every once in a while. Cameron Diaz did a film called Bad Teacher a few years ago, which happened to be a pretty big hit, enabling her to work for scale on The Counselor–a movie Sasha really liked, if I’m not mistaken.

  15. moviewatcher

    Rob Y: I like the chart, although I’m against any kind of objective standard for a well rounded character, be it male or female. I just think it’s really fun to go through the arrows. But I do have one question: what do the creators of the chart mean when they say that in order for a female character to be strong she can’t “represent an idea”? An idea of what a woman should be? A stereotype about women? I was just wondering because many characters in great pieces of art do represent ideas or opinions.

  16. What baffles me about the plot of this film is that these three smart, beautiful, well-off women all KNOW the guy is an asshole and, despite that knowledge, still keep him as the main object of their thoughts and deeds. Instead of just, you know, leaving him behind and moving on with their lives.

    I agree with those reviews. Me and my 2 brothers were raised by our mum from a very early age and ONLY by her. Seeing adult women being portrayed this way flies in the face of what I learned about women from my wonderful mother.

  17. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    The Counselor–a movie Sasha really liked, if I’m not mistaken.

    Mistaken is putting it lightly. Sasha can’t stand The Counselor. It’s only me and Manohla Dargis and Bryce who liked it, and nobody else.

  18. “It’s me and Manohla Dargis and Bryce who liked it, and nobody else.”

    And Jeff Wells. And me.

    http://cinesnatch.blogspot.com/2013/10/film-review-thecounselor-spoilers.html

  19. Andre, what you just said made you even more attractive lol
    Yes, I was raised only by my mom as well, and I wish there are more stories/films about remarkable and ordinary women like her. Their stories are far more interesting than cartoon (female) characters in many mainstream films. However, we are not the majority it seems, since most people would prefer entertainment that takes their minds off from real life.

  20. phantom

    I saw it last week. Bad date, don’t ask, but yeah, the film was pretty awful, too. Having said that I think we should look at the positive : between the Captain Americas and Spidermen, a female centered film ruled the Box Office this weekend and that’s always a good thing. Would it be better if the material (for leading ladies in general) was CONSIDERABLY better ? Sure. I am also sure the likes of Cameron Diaz would prefer starring in a bluejasmine every year instead of generic often unintentionally offensive fares like this one. But at the end of the day she probably takes what she can get and opts for moneymaking shit like ‘The Other Woman’ instead of retiring due to lack of worthy material.

    Come to think about it, Cameron Diaz is living proof that the industry is awful to women : she can be great in comedy (few remember that she won NYFCC for There’s Something About Mary), she can be great in drama (Gangs of New York, My Sister’s Keeper), excellent in character actress mode (Vanilla Sky) on top of being an appealing leading lady (In her shoes) and even daring if given the opportunity (Being John Malkovich, The Counselor), not to mention she is one of the very few female BO draws who can carry a film all on her own (Bad Teacher), hell she even headlined a franchise for a while there, too (Charlie’s Angels).

    Yet her accomplishments and longevity are glossed over because the industry can’t seem to be able to take her seriously and keeps stucking her right back into these ‘comedies’ because that’s how they can make the most money off of her and very publicly ridicule her if she dares to deviate (just remember the shit she had to put up with because of The Counselor) OR simply ignore her efforts even the succesful ones (show me another actress with 4 Golden Globe nods, 2 individual SAG nods, a Bafta nod and a Best Actress award from the New York Film Critics Circle WITHOUT an Oscar nomination).

    Bottom line : It is time for the industry to wake the fuck up, realize that it’s the 21st century and finally work HARDER to be able to provide worthy material for worthy female talent. It is great that the Meryls and Cates are getting great scripts but it is simply not enough.

  21. The “women in Hollywood” discussion always leaves me torn, because although Hollywood has made some great progress in the last few years, there is still plenty more to be done. As phantom said above, Diaz has quite proven herself and it’s surprising she doesn’t get the chance to do higher caliber work more often. I would love to see her in a Woody Allen or a David O. Russell.

    That being said, I find it that most comedy-oriented actors have trouble being taken seriously. While there’s no doubt that actors like Diaz, Jennifer Garner, Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson, Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Reese Witherspoon, Will Ferrell, Jim Carrey, Jack Black, Vince Vaughn, etc. have had chances to shine in their careers, they still aren’t given enough opportunities to do higher caliber work, and that’s a shame. It’s nice to see people like Bradley Cooper, Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey, Kristen Wiig, and others successfully buck this trend but they are the exception instead of the rule.

  22. Also, I don’t think it’s fair to blame the victories of Captain America and Spider-Man on the lack of great roles for women. Both are undoubtedly male-centered films but in Captain America 2, Scarlett Johansson does get the chance to carry a decent portion of the movie and does it well. I haven’t seen Amazing Spider-Man 2 yet but in the first one, Emma Stone did get to be funny and sexy and radiate a decent level of intelligence. So while the men remain the target audience, the filmmakers of these action movies are at least trying to provide something noteworthy for the actresses to do.

  23. Robert A.

    “She can be great in comedy (few remember that she won NYFCC for There’s Something About Mary…”)

    Just for the record, Diaz was a NYFCC winner sort of by default. Diaz was not a leading contender in the first two ballots, but rallied as a compromise pick when Gotham voters deadlocked between Fernanda Montenegro in Central Station and Renee Zellweger for both One True Thing and A Price Above Rubies. The circle chair at the time, Godfrey Cheshire, said Diaz’s victory was “a case of the high-brow members teaming up with the low-brows against the middle brows.” Diaz’s victory also led a female member of the NYFCC (Thelma Adams?) to quip, “Diaz won in a groinswell.”

    But I get your point, Phantom. A win is a win, despite how many erections it took to get to the win. :)

    P.S. *Robert A. adds The Counselor to his Netflix Queue*

  24. Thank you for that Lars!

    What I find appalling about this movie is that it presents itself as a girl-power film and yet the whole plot revolves around their reaction to a man’s treatment of them.

    My mum had 3 young men to raise and she did a great job of it, but she still had a life outside her divorce and her kids. And she STILL raised 3 polite, respectful, cultured, educated men. At times, things were tough, but she kept on being herself and raisin us the same way she always did.

    She is now happily married to an amazing man she describes as the love of her life. Thoughout the years, she had relationships. But her love life was NEVER her focus. She might disagree, but I always saw her as a woman first, mother/wife second.

    Where are the movies about women like her?

  25. Bob Burns

    google “primetime dick” and ya get Dick Clark.

    the sexual food chain is as immutable as gravity.

  26. Bill W.

    Hottentot Venus – wish they’d make a movie about her

  27. Bob Burns

    never underestimate the power of male beauty. male beauty trumps female beauty, always. it is so fundamental that it can hardly be enunciated. even het-boys revere male beauty – they bow down before beautiful men. that’s why beautiful men have ruled movies.

    change underway…. fine by me…. but a change that is bigger than the writing and casting of movies.

  28. Film Fatale

    Andre, have you seen the movie yet or are you reacting to the trailer? Because the movie is better than the trailer and Sasha has cherry-picked its two most scathing reviews. It is simply a revenge fantasy and no one involved is taking it seriously — why are the critics up in arms over it?

  29. In fairness, I have only seen the trailer, but I see so many movies where men are the sole focus of women’s lives. Especially when the guy is an asshole.

    I’d love to see a movie about romantic tribulations where the protagonist (male or female, actually) ends up happily alone. That’s beside the point of the conversation though, rant over :P

  30. “I’d love to see a movie about romantic tribulations where the protagonist (male or female, actually) ends up happily alone. ”

    Spoiler Alert: My Best Friend’s Wedding.

  31. I was more insulted by the fact that it’s reductive and overdone. The gags in the movie are stale, and it doesn’t appear that there is a script by the way the dialogue wanders and meanders all over the place. I’m all about a First Wives’ Club-esque takedown, but I expect a bit of brains behind it all.

  32. Spoiler alert: forgot about that one :P

  33. Andre, your mom sounds resilient! I think her best reward is her sons turn out to be good people. I think there are many movies that depict women in a more positive light, but they are just not seen by the wide public. Ann Hui did numerous films with complicated female protagonists, so did Sarah Polley (plus more others of course). I wish Diaz would challenge herself again, work with an auteur who understands women. I still consider “Being John Malkovich” as her best work.

  34. “Mistaken is putting it lightly. Sasha can’t stand The Counselor. It’s only me and Manohla Dargis and Bryce who liked it, and nobody else.”

    Add me to the short list as well. I enjoyed it. I do recall Sasha loving Cameron Diaz’s performance though.

  35. phantom

    m1

    Oh, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the Captain Americas and Spidermen as much as the next guy (both sequels were above average and quite entertaining, to be honest), I just pointed out that it is a great thing that among the SO many surefire male dominated hit films there is a success story that is female centered. That’s all.

  36. phantom

    Robert A.

    Thanks for the interesting trivia, always appreciated ! :)

  37. Just to confirm, the Bechdel test is:
    (1) Does a film have two women in it? (2) Do they talk to each other? (3) About something other than a man?

    So … multiple reviewers are surprised that this movies fails this test even though the plot revolves around these women obsessing over one particular man(!). Anyone else see the issue here?

    Were you expecting this obviously cliche “chick revenge” flick to secretly pave the way for women’s liberation around the world? Why are you wasting your time even talking about this movie?

  38. Unlikely hood

    I like this discussion.

    After Bonnie and Clyde and The Graduate changed everything, there were ten years of outstanding films, but there was also The Love Bug and other retrograde nonsense.

    Thus I prefer to believe that the big 2013FGH – frozen gravity hunger games – augurs better things for women on film, even if some retro crap also happens. If I’m a studio head, I’m looking to exploit this strong women thing – it’s a proven moneymaker (FGH) and I can recycle old stories and make them look original (by casting Diaz or whoever), which is my job description.

  39. As a transgender woman, when I saw this trailer for the first time I was very offended personally. It looks like the absolute nadir of mainstream female-catering cinema. Forget women, it’s actually a repulsive film to transgender people.

    I can’t believe that script was even approved given the nature of the revenge plot.

    Completely agree with the reviewer.

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