Thursday, April 14, 2011

"The Other Woman" flirts with too many emotional gaps



The Other Woman (2011)
119 min., rated R
Grade: C +

Natalie Portman has no time to breathe from working overtime this film season, and she again proves herself a versatile actress in The Other Woman, this drab melodrama adapted from Ayelet Waldman's 2006 novel "Love and Other Impossible Pursuits." 

She plays Emelia, a cold, prickly lawyer who dove into a homewrecking affair with her married boss, Jack (Scott Cohen). After he divorces his wife (Lisa Kudrow), Emelia and Jack marry. She's now grieving over the death of her own three-day-old baby girl and tries warming up to Jack's precocious, sensitive stepson, William (Charlie Tahan). 

Flashbacks reveal how Emelia and Jack's affair began, but there are gaps in writer-director Don Roos' screenplay that don't make emotional sense. 

It's hard to accept the relationship between Emelia and Jack. What do they see in one another? Jack is bland and Emelia is a cold fish who shows no guilt for ruining a marriage and family. Her friends (Anthony Rapp, Lauren Ambrose) don't think anything of it, and nor do her parents, one of whom has had an extramarital affair as well. 

Fortunately, revalatory and reconciliation scenes are played with sincere emotion by the fine actors. The Other Woman manages moments of truth here, a well-written scene or two there (conversations between Emelia and William are charming). 

Whether she's pirouetting into crazy madness (Black Swan) or banging Ashton Kutcher (No Strings Attached), Portman proves she can do emotional distance and still gradually reel in our empathy. Even Kudrow, her character short-tempered and for good reason, blows her scenes out of the water. 

But as for the film itself, Rabbit Hole handled similar issues more effectively. 

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