The sexual politics of Nick Cassavetes’s decidedly un-romantic comedy The Other Woman are intriguingly European and, at their core, kind of groovy. Wronged Connecticut wifey-wife Kate (Leslie Mann) seeks out her husband’s mistress, sexy city-slicker and high-powered lawyer Carly (Cameron Diaz), looking to her for answers: Why is my husband such an asshole? And can we be besties? Carly, who began her relationship with Mr. Infidelity (played, with cool Michael Douglasian sleaziness, by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) not knowing he was married and cut him off once she got the tip, at first wants nothing to do with needy, high-strung Kate. But before long the two get cozy, and when they discover the philandering hubby has a third mistress, they pull her into their unlikely sisterhood, too. (She’s played, as a likably self-aware ditz, by well-known model Kate Upton.)
The basic idea behind The Other Woman is perversely progressive: When a straight married man strays in real life, the first person his scorned wife usually blames is the vixen who led him to the whoring bed. The underlying assumption, sexist at heart, is that women are the schemers, men the innocent naïfs. The Other Woman, written by Melissa Stack, doesn’t immediately buy into that baloney. And ideally, it would have provided a showcase for Diaz and Mann, both gangly, gifted comedians who know their way around a zinger, not to mention a pratfall. Each has a terrific moment or two: Mann’s Kate, weepily sprawled on the marital bed in her wedding dress, squirts Reddi-wip into her mouth straight from the can — she’s a pale, fragile meringue of temporary helplessness, channeling the lowest-of-the-low feelings modern women are never supposed to entertain but sometimes, at least secretly, do.
Diaz, who made such a gloriously unapologetic bad gal in Bad Teacher, has fewer opportunities for on-the-edge ridiculousness, but she’s a good sport all the way. Carly tumbles into the bushes and — surprise! — breaks off the heel of her shoe; she sprints goofily across a beach, a crazy windmill of arms and legs. But The Other Woman doesn’t give these actresses much to do except look ridiculous, if not sneaky and conniving. And in the end, they do what all women in comedies like this must: They pull their lives together and clink glasses over how awesome they are, without ever going to the trouble of being genuinely awesome.