Diaz, Mann, Upton shine in smart, funny 'Other Woman'.

Author:LaSalle, Mick

Byline: Mick LaSalle

'The Other Woman'

A 20th Century Fox film

Rating: R for sexual content and language

Running time: 1 hour, 49 minutes

Far from a silly romance, "The Other Woman'' is a harsh revenge comedy that pairs Cameron Diaz, in her recent acerbic mode, and Leslie Mann, in her deepest and funniest role to date. Written on the knife edge between farce and naturalism by newcomer Melissa K. Stack, it's directed with precision and balance by Nick Cassavetes and put over expertly by the cast. The advertisements might look dumb, but the movie isn't.

The first bit of good news is Cameron Diaz, who -- just in the last few years -- has stopped smiling all the time and shaving 50 points off her IQ. The Diaz we find here is confident, impatient and queenly, as a 40ish lawyer in what seems like an idyllic romance with a handsome businessman (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). As Carly, Diaz has the magnetism and hauteur of a movie star, and so when she finds out that the boyfriend is married, she drops him cold. She's ready to move on.

But the man's wife wants to be friends with her. Shocked and devastated by her husband's treachery, the wife (Leslie Mann) has absolutely no one she can confide in -- except for her husband's former lover. From there, slowly but believably, and at first against Carly's will, the two become friends ... and then start thinking of ways to get even.

The character of the wronged wife is the movie's best creation, and Mann's performance is its revelation. Mann has always been funny, but her performances have been usually within a particular range, playing off a sort of harried but knowing comic persona. But here she's playing someone naive, and zany, and needy, who can't shut up and is slightly ridiculous. At the same time, she must also be hurt, and worthwhile, and serious -- the carrier of the movie's emotion.

If you see "The Other Woman,'' watch Mann and don't take...

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