Whether the movies fall into male or female cliches, the main characters are too broad in these failed films, says the Cinema Siren.
If, indeed, as Cinema Siren I am meant to “guide film lovers through a sea of celluloid,” it is best on this weekend’s turbulent cinematic waters to stay the course till the true blockbuster and festival film release season starts in earnest in the next few weeks.
All this is to say the two releases this week, The Other Woman and Brick Mansions, both of which skew toward a specific demographic, have little to redeem them.
This is particularly disappointing for two reasons. The Other Woman is meant to be carried by female co-stars, and the release landscape from the major Hollywood studios could use continued expansion in that area. Brick Mansions is Paul Walker’s last completed role and as such would be best as more than just a passable send-off to show his considerable presence on screen, and the star quality that made him famous.
Back to back screenings of these left me with a stale taste, and begged for a serious cinematic palate cleanse. Good thing better movies await on the horizon.
THE OTHER WOMAN
For a movie with such pedigreed actors and potential to exploit the success of recent female-led films, The Other Woman is a vast disappointment. It seems satisfied with showing audiences women as cardboard cut-out cliches, activating and inflating in each other their most reptilian desires for cruelty and revenge. Hopefully female critics, indeed critics in general around the country are collectively shaking their heads.
Supportive stay-at-home housewife Kate (Leslie Mann) encounters the girlfriend of her husband Mark (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau of Game of Thrones), hard-as-nails lawyer Carly (Cameron Diaz), entirely by accident. Carly arrives late at night in plumber cosplay, complete with hot pants and plunger, at the couple’s house in Connecticut. (How a cheater would give her his home address is a very good question).
The shared experience of having a duplicitous partner from whom they seek revenge forges an unlikely but empowering friendship between the two women. A truncated version of their interaction would go something like:
“Bad boys must be punished, and we should be the ones to do it.” “Amen, sister.”
No groan-worthy comedy of this stripe would be complete without a third, even less well-defined character. In this case, it’s Amber. She is the 20-something big breasted blonde with a big heart (Kate Upton), who also seeks retribution from the lying louse.
The actors involved certainly give it their all. As the object of revenge, Coster-Waldau makes his character Mark a believable mix of deadpan sincerity and smarmy charm. Leslie Mann in particular shows she could have carried depth and meaning into her characterization, had she been given half a chance.
This movie’s undoing, though, is the script. Screenwriter Melissa Stack, who has been given the rare opportunity to feature gorgeous and talented 40-something (!!) actresses Mann and Diaz in strong leading roles, botches it to such a degree it seems to careen past ineptitude, and land squarely at misogyny and hatred for women. It’s enough to set this girlie-girl critic’s Christian Louboutin-sole colored blood to boiling. None of these characters is likable.
Carly is the ruthless man-eater, BECAUSE SHE HAS A CAREER. Kate is the just-hand-me-the-paper-and-I’ll-sign-it clueless whiner making no effort to dress well BECAUSE SHE ALREADY HAS A MAN. Amber is all breast and no brain BECAUSE SHE HAS BREASTS. I know women want to hate her, but why can’t she be young, buxom and brainy at the same time?
Honestly the actresses involved should not be held responsible when this failure goes down in flames. Who wouldn’t jump at the chance at making a film led by women who might show some semblance of strength as well as support for each other? Shame on Stack for keeping the bar low and aiming for cheap laughs when there is so much at stake.
Some will enjoy The Other Woman, especially those with low expectations or who harbor a long hidden or deep seeded need for revenge. However, even they will blanche at the unnecessarily over-the-top elements towards the end. One bar, that for abject humiliation, will be hard to cross after this … Someone. Please find a suitable successor to Nora Ephron, or a woman-loving female version of Judd Apatow. STAT.
1 out of 5 stars
In Brick Mansions, Detroit has lost the battle against crime and is now contained behind a huge wall, a la Escape from New York. There are no schools, no hospitals, only drugs and danger. Undercover cop Damien Collier (Paul Walker, in his last completed film) must partner with ex-con Lino (David Belle) to dismantle a bomb and save Lino’s girlfriend, who has been kidnapped by drug kingpin Tremaine (RZA).
The prerequisite crooked politicians and thugs abound in this Luc Besson penned action crime drama. As with all movies with which Luc Besson is involved, there is a frail looking tough cookie with doe eyes (in this case it is Lino’s girlfriend, Lola). In Brick Mansions there is also a girl thug in leathers that amount to short shorts and studded bikini top, because apparently all female hired guns like to dress like a dominatrix prostitute on the dole.
Belle is the co-founder of Parkour, which is a training discipline where practitioners use only their bodies and their surroundings to propel themselves in the fastest way possible from point A to point B. His expertise in Parkour was put to full advantage playing the same character in the original movie on which Brick Mansions is based, the infinitely better Banlieue 13 (or District B13) which was also written by Luc Besson, and directed by cinematographer Pierre Morel.
That movie was exciting, fast paced and funny. It also had a political edginess that spoke to the issues plaguing France with the haves and have-nots and the widening gap between the classes in Paris made of the French born and immigrants. This Americanized version is ridiculous, and the politics become watered down and trite. Additionally, there is racism in the characterizations that events at the end do not mitigate.
In this film, it’s basically some white folk fighting a bunch of black folk who can’t shoot their guns well enough to kill them. In 2014, we should expect better, even within the context of urban action.
It is possible that Luc Besson will always be held in the highest regard as a filmmaker in France. His unique aesthetic was utilized successfully in the cult favorite The Fifth Element, but otherwise has often failed to translate. There is something about the sentimentality of his writing that works in French but not in English. Such is the case once again in Brick Mansions.
The story is laughable, the plot unbelievable, and the characterizations so broad, if they were targets we could shoot, they’d all be dead in the first five minutes. Perhaps that would have been just as well. Watching lovely everyman actor Paul Walker for effectively the last time, they should have built a better cinematic construct for him. Brick Mansions isn’t it.
1 out of 5 stars