After Natalie Portman’s Oscar win for Black Swan, it must have seemed like a good time to finally release this 2009 drama featuring Portman as a “grown up” for the first time. Originally titled Love and Other Impossible Pursuits (which is also the title of the source material by Ayelet Waldman) this well-acted but ultimately disappointing film struggles with a rather unlikeable lead character in the protagonist Emilia (Portman), a bright young woman who gets involved with a married man (Scott Cohen) resulting in his divorce and marriage to her. She subsequently gives birth to a child who dies of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) causing her to become depressed and distant from those around her, particularly her stepson (Charlie Tahan), who tries to be her friend.
It’s not always difficult to root for such an imperfect character – after all, we all have flaws. And Portman is hard to dislike in any role. But the extremely negative portrayal of the ex-wife (a stilted Lisa Kudrow) and the constant complaints about being the victim in the situation make it a tough watch. If the filmmakers had made it a little more obvious that the emotional pain Emilia is experiencing is self-inflicted it would have been a better watch. There are plenty of real-life dramatic moments here, but given the lavish lifestyle of the characters there’s still a certain distance and unreality to many of the situations. Unfortunately, regardless of how well done the film could have been, unless the viewer finds (or has found) herself in a similar situation to Emilia, it becomes increasingly difficult to relate to her complaints in her life of privilege. Who wants to watch a rich person complain for two hours?
Natalie Portman has proven time and time again that she is an extremely talented actress willing to take on challenging roles and she once again shows her strengths here. But the script itself is too big of a hurdle and despite the attempt at an uplifting message at the end, The Other Woman fails to deliver more than your average Lifetime movie. If you’re a Natalie Portman fanatic you won’t want to miss this, but otherwise I’d say give it a pass.
Zach’s Rating: C+
Perfect For: Die-hard Natalie Portman fans and Lifetime watchers
Stay Away if: You’re expecting a movie drama
To purchase The Other Woman, visit Amazon