The Other Man
Schindler and Zorro, together at last! In a straight-to-DVD, no less.
In a demonstration of Hollywood's new
economics at work, this is the second time within a few months that Antonio Banderas has joined other former A-listers in a film which could not wrangle
a theatrical distribution. A few months earlier, Banderas and Morgan Freeman
went directly to discs in a caper film called Thick as Thieves (aka The Code).
This time Zorro is headed for the retail shelves with Oscar nominee Liam Neeson
and three-time Oscar nominee Laura Linney.
Why no theatrical release for this one? Because The Other Man is an odd movie
which would be impossible to market or advertise. In fact, if I tell you right
kind of movie it really is, I will spoil it for you, because it seems at first
to be something completely different, and it wears that false face for an
extended period of time.
The film begins with an elegant restaurant dinner between a power couple (Neeson
and Linney), who have been happily married for decades. As they make small
talk, the wife asks the husband if he has ever considered cheating or
regretted missed sexual opportunities. Something in the tone of her voice and
the look in her eyes tells him that she is projecting, or perhaps trying to
tell him something, but she reveals no more.
Meanwhile, in another movie ...
Neeson wakes up; Linney is gone, for reasons which are not explained to the
audience. Neeson becomes obsessed with some files on his wife's computer and
some messages on her cell phone which make it clear that she either had or is
having an affair with a man named Ralph (Banderas). Neeson becomes
increasingly more determined to find ol' Ralph, and to confront him in some
way. Neeson does eventually track Banderas down and pretends to befriend him,
but does not reveal his true identity. At the same time, Neeson is pretending
to be Linney in e-mails to Banderas.
Neeson gets violent urges when he finds Banderas to be a cocky, obnoxious
Milanese yuppie. What will Neeson do? Does he intend to kill his wife's "other
man"? Is he seeking closure in some other way? And where has Linney gone, if
she is not with either of them?
You now have the impression that the film is some kind of Hitchcockesque
psychological mystery/thriller, or a lurid revenge/guilt plot in the manner of
Chabrol. In fact, it is nothing of the sort. Everything detail I have
described so far is either totally misleading or at least significantly different from what it
appears to be, and the film's chronology is not transparent. I can reveal no
more without spoiling the surprises, and the entire value of the film derives
directly from those surprises. As I mentioned above, I can't even tell you
what kind of a movie it really is. I probably shouldn't even have told you it
was not really a Hitchcock/Chabrol type of movie, but I guess I'm just not
subtle enough to have avoided that.
"Setting all that aside," you wonder, "is it any good?" Well ... um ...
sorta. You might appreciate it, but you must be aware of a few points.
The very few critics who reviewed it (Variety and The Hollywood Reporter
and a tiny smattering of others) demonstrated no enthusiasm for the script.
There was some praise for the performances and the cinematography, which
featured some lovely looks at Milan and Lake Como, as well as some elegant
interiors of various restaurants, hotels, and so forth. In counter balance
to that, there was general critical derision for the twist-happy plot, and there was
some disappointment in the clumsy management of mood, suspense, and
It is a chick-flick. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's
rated 1.5 points higher by females at IMDb than by males. We have determined
that a difference of one or more points tends to place the film in
Estrogenland. My own opinion of the film confirms the impression generated
by those scores. I can't say more because of the "hip-or-critical oath" of
critic-reader confidentiality, but you have been warned.
Whether it is a chick-flick or not, I liked it more than the critics did. I think my
reaction can be explained by the fact that I didn't much care for the
direction it originally seemed to be taking, so I didn't share the critics'
sense of disappointment when it veered off at another angle.
Should you see it? You should not if you want to see a Hitchcock film or a
big, juicy thriller. Despite all the pulpy plot twists, and despite the steamy
set-up, The Other Man is not an entertainment film or a guilty pleasure, and
it will be more
interesting to those who are inclined toward serious drama. Believe it or not.
One thing you will certainly not object to:
Laura Linney topless.