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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw this at the Toronto Film Festival. I go to university in Toronto,
and I decided on impulse to watch one of the movies in between my
classes, and this one fit so I wouldn't have to be late for my next
class. I'm very glad I saw it.
The film is about Emilia (Natalie Portman), who lives with her husband John (Scott Cohen), and her stepson William (Charlie Tahan). We watch as her story is told through flashbacks and we learn that John was married (to Carolyne, played by Lisa Kudrow) and had an affair with Emilia. He soon divorces Carolyne and marries Emilia. We watch as Emilia struggles to keep her life together with her marriage strained by the death of their 3-day-old daughter Isabel, and William's resentment towards her.
I really liked the acting in this movie. Natalie Portman is really natural in this role. Scott Cohen and the young Charlie Tahan were very good too, and Lisa Kudrow too, even though she didn't have a lot of scenes.
I liked the story, and I didn't find the pace of the film to be dragging. The characters were well written too- I was always able to see their side of the story and could sympathize and understand them, even when they contradicted with other characters.
To me, Love and Other Impossible Pursuits was a very good film overall.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
THE OTHER WOMAN is a film that is a bit difficult to watch both because
of the thematic material and because of the uneven quality of the film
itself. Based on the novel LOVE AND OTHER IMPOSSIBLE PURSUITS by Ayelet
Waldman (the original release of this film in 2009 used this title) and
adapted for the screen by writer/director Don Roos, the story deals
with SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), divorce, step-parenting, the
legal vagaries that surround divorce and remarriage, and loss. One of
the reasons the film didn't make it on first theater release is that it
was advertised as 'A comedy/drama that details the story of a woman's
difficult relationship with her stepson.' Yes, that is a small part of
the story, but this film is hardly a comedy and in fact it seems to
have difficulty in deciding just what the main story is!
The opening credits begin with images of an infant girl but as soon as the action begins we are introduced to Emilia (Natalie Portman) and her husband Jack (Scott Cohen) and son William (Charlie Tahan) There is an undefined tension that is soon explained through flashbacks: Emilia fell in love with Jack who was married to OB/GYN physician Carolyne (Lisa Kudrow) and the love affair quickly developed into Jack's divorcing Carolyne and marrying Emilia. The newlyweds promptly had a baby girl who lived only three days, leaving Emilia in a prolonged state of grieving and denial. Carolyne is a controlling viper and makes the couple's life miserable, refusing complete visitation privileges with William, creating a toxic relationship between Emilia and her 'stepson' William. Emilia's friends (Lauren Ambrose and Anthony Rapp) try to make Emilia's life easier but the friction between Emilia and William as well as the constant interference by Carolyne eventually lead to a collapse in Emilia's and Jack's relationship. Some 'truths' come out about the death of Jack an Emilia's daughter and the response to those statements changes everyone in the story - including Emilia's divorced mother and father. Lessons in how to forgive and how to love complete the story.
Natalie Portman proves her acting chops in this difficult, multidimensional role and her performance is enhanced by that of Charlie Tahan as the young William. The rest of the cast is not of the same caliber, failing to make us care about their characters enough to find their significance in this rocky script. Though there are many flaws in the film making it seem to drag on too long (almost two hours), the opportunity to see the gradual growth of the acting career of Natalie Portman is reason enough to watch this little New York relationship drama.
Inevitably seeing this movie brought to mind another with a similar
title, "Love And other Drugs", which was released later but I saw
first. As well as titles with the same three first words, both films
are based on a book (in this case a successful novel by Ayelet
Waldman), are scripted by the director (in this instance, Don Roos),
have an attractive and young lead actress (in this one, Natalie
Portman), and deal with challenging social issues (this time,
step-parenting and infant mortality). However, where "..Drugs" was a
romantic comedy, "..Impossible Pursuits" has less romance and very
little comedy. In fact, at times it is quite harrowing.
It works because of an intelligent script (although the dialogue is sometimes hard to follow) and some fine acting, not just from Portman - who is excellent - but Scott Cohen as her husband, Lisa Kudrow as the ex-wife, and Charlie Tahan as the troubled child of the first marriage. Many films set in New York include scenes in Central Park, but here the location is particularly well used, especially in a silent walk to remember the deaths of the unborn or newly born. The soundtrack too neatly complements the action in a work that is well worth viewing as a contrast to the standard rom-com.
Love And Other Impossible Pursuits (horribly changed to The Other
Woman) is based on a best-seller novel of the same name by Ayelet
In the movie, Emilia (Natalie Portman) is a young, happy, beautiful and notorious lawyer that falls in love with Jack (Scott Cohen) the man who left his first wife Carolyn (Lisa Kudrow) to marry Emilia and also give himself some new colors in life. Jack and Carolyn have a young boy, William (Charlie Tahan), which have some difficulties to accept Emilia as a new member of the family and is always influenced by his mother's tough thoughts and her lack of respect for Isabel's death, the child Emilia and Jack lost few days after her birth. Carolyn also doesn't accept the fact that her son will not have the paternal presence anymore but in the other hand can't handle Emilia's efforts to conquer William's appreciation because all her tries fails with unintentional careless attitudes.
The movie hides from the audience when, why or how Isabel died till the last moment to intensify dramatic moments and give time to plot developments, which works but some elements in the book aren't clear in the movie. The movie focuses her tough relationship with her stepson forgetting some of her problems about why she hates so much other places and people that surrounds her. Of course that we know that all her angry and hate are related to her loss, but seems like everything is just a result of her depression and not because all that she once loved remember somehow her child or her intense desires to be a perfect mother and wife with the man she loves deeply. And those are the other impossible pursuits the title talks about.
Don Roos is a great director who deals with the short thin line between human losses and the problems that come along with it, expressing human feelings in its real form never desperate to get tears from the audience with lame dramatic situations. His movies are always simple, linear and easy to understand but honest enough to make us considering how complex are human feelings and the relationship between them. That's how he succeeds with titles like his acclaimed breakthrough The Opposite Of Sex (1998) and the less known but equally good Happy Endings (2005). But here seems that things are sometimes superficial enough as an ordinary drama that succeeds but could give us a little more than is given. When everything seems simple enough suddenly he tries hard more than is concerned like the Freud-ish analysis using Oedipus parallels and relationship transferring, adding nothing solid to the plot more than a few minutes plus of some unnecessary composition.
Natalie Portman is great for sure, apathetic and cold as the character is even when sometimes her character's egocentrism and selfishness seems a little exhaustive. The same can be said about the other actors, specially Don Ross' longtime collaborator Lisa Kudrow, that once more gives some comedic situations to relieve some melodramatic sequences but suddenly is able to transform a funny performance into an absolutely emotional and delicate situation. The example of Kudrow's outstanding ability is obvious when she calls Emilia to explain the truth about Isabel's death. That scene is fantastic in its simplistic form and what give us reasons to watch Don Roos movies from the beginning to the end.
A beautiful movie, sometimes corny but effective in its purpose.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
From the first scene as I was watching this movie it was made clear
that it was not a romantic feel-good film. It was not about creating
happy and beautiful couples. Even the adultery in the movie wasn't what
this all was about. The main plot of the movie, the main theme, was the
loss of a child and how it affected the parents and those in their
close vicinity. Emilia usually gets a lot of critique from viewers -
from what I've seen - because of her status as a "homewrecker". I'd
like to add that this isn't what the movie is about. It is true that
her character entered a relationship with a married man, but that
relationship is never justified. The point of the movie isn't to paint
her out as a terrific girl while his first wife (beautifully portrayed
by Lisa Kudrow) is supposed to be painted out as a horrible person who
deserved what she got.
Through-out the film it's clear that the ex-wife holds a grudge towards Emilia and she does act out on it a lot, delivering hateful comments and says things just with the intention to cause pain. But at the back of my mind this behavior was always justified. She had been wronged and betrayed, and I don't believe the creators were trying to make her out to be vindictive or spiteful - just hurt and angry because of that hurt. And Emilia was never given scenes where she tried to justify what she'd done, or where the viewers were supposed to choose her "side" in the whole ordeal.
The main theme of the movie was the child that Jack and Emilia lost and how that affected their relationship and most importantly how Emilia lived with the guilt of thinking she was the reason why their child had died. Jack points this out, saying that she hurts the people closest to her the most, and it affects their relationship so strongly that it comes to an end. The strongest scene for me, and the one scene that definitely showed what kind of person the ex-wife really was and where it became crystal clear that it wasn't about revenge or hatred but pain and betrayal, was when Emilia gets called to Carolyn's office so that the latter could make it clear that it wasn't Emilia's fault that her daughter died. Carolyn did this for her son, yes, but she didn't have to. If she'd been a horrible person, that a lot of viewers seem to think the director wanted her to look like, then she wouldn't have done it. This scene really implements that it was never about making anyone the victim or anyone the bad guy, but just about showing the situation for what it was and how everyone handled it differently, reacting as real human beings.
I saw no glorification or romanticism of the affair. I saw no trying to blame it all on the horrible ex-wife. I saw three people who ended up in each others life because of a mistake and they all handled it as best as they could.
As for the performances I thought Natalie Portman, Lisa Kudrow and Scott Cohen all did an amazing job. The movie itself is a very emotional journey if you're open to seeing the bigger picture instead of trying to find someone to blame or hate.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In Manhattan, the twenty-two year-old Harvard lawyer Emilia Greenleaf
(Natalie Portman) has a crush on her boss Jack Woolf (Scott Cohen) and
they have a love affair. Jack has a wasted marriage with his wife, the
prominent and snobbish Dr. Carolyne (Lisa Kudrow), and their only son
William (Charlie Tahan) is his pride and joy. When Emilia gets
pregnant, Jack divorces from Carolyne and marries her. The intelligent
William is poisoned by his mother and resented with his stepmother.
Emilia, who has issues with her womanizer father, delivers Isabel and
three days later, the baby dies. Her dysfunctional family with Jack and
William never works and Carolyne makes her relationship with William
harder and harder. When Emilia reveals to Jack that he might have
killed Isabel, their marriage ends. But surprisingly William asks his
mother to help Emilia to learn the truth about the death of Isabel.
"Love and Other Impossible Pursuits" is a promising story with interesting subplots that are superficially approached and in the end becomes a boring and shallow soap-opera. I do not recall any other movie with so many "- I am sorry" and inconvenient arguments and comments in front of a child like Emilia and Carolyne do in this film in front of William. Natalie Portman's character spends most of the time whining and her behavior seems to be incompatible for a woman graduated in Harvard. I do not know who might have the twisted sense of humor to categorize this film as a comedy. My vote is three.
Title (Brazil): "As Coisas Impossíveis do Amor" ("The Impossible Things of Love")
unlike the comment i've just read through, i don't see this movie is
trying to make Emilia (natalie Portman) as any kind of hero. Rather, I
see how this movie portraits how contradictory life is, got married
with someone who's changed over time and the sparks are not there
anymore, seeing a man who you fall in love in first sight but he's
married, grow up in a broken family angry with the irresponsible dad
but turned out everyone forgive him for nothing, giving birth to a baby
but it dies in 3 days, have to be step-mother dealing with a "son"
that's not yours, all these make Emilia lost, she started pissing off
people, from strangers to her husband, she did try fixing all those
from time to time but either she did it the wrong way or it just so
happened that things are too complicated to straighten out, life's just
too complicated. at the end everyone around her cannot put up with her
anymore, not even her husband...
and probably all she's done was due to that at the bottom the heart there was a knot, a thing that she couldn't let go couldn't forgive herself, until Carolyne told her no, u didn't do it, it wasn't your fault.
after then, she changed, but only to find that the world is not like the same, no matter what she does things done are irreversible, and no matter how u apologize or make your talk the ones who was once closest to u can simply turn their back to u giving u an answer "no, i cannot do it", and this is a very true portrait of life, and it touches me.
to me, i don't see any ethical problem or anythg like such in the movie, after all it's not uncommon to see more hysterical stuff happening around us in this world this story is just about life and how tiny and complicated it can be to every of us.
Don Roos's 'Happy Endings' and 'The Opposite of Sex' are among my
favourite movies and his 'Web Therapy' is one of my favourite series.
Thus, I was quite excited about 'Love and Other Impossible Pursuits'
despite the negative reviews. Sadly this one does not match up even
close to any of Roos's previous works. The major fault lies in the
writing, especially the characterization. Portman's Emilia is a
cardboard of a woman going through the loss of her child and is bitter
towards everyone around her. Cohen's Jack is the typical husband who's
holding it together and Kudrow's Carolyne is the clichéd bitchy
ex-wife. Because of the lack of dimension in character, it's hard to
judge the acting.
However, I'd say the actors did the best with what they're given. The best acting moment is the final sequence between Kudrow and Portman (that takes place in Carolyne's office). Here Kudrow, in a wonderfully subtle way, displays layers of emotions and Portman's reaction is good. The other actors don't get much scope except Charlie Tahan who is quite alright.
The movie has a polished look to it. The cinematography is good but the score is very intrusive and adds a feel of melodrama almost like a fluffy TV movie.
I haven't read the book and so I cannot tell what Roos took from the book. But he is a talented writer and filmmaker so hope his next venture come close to the aforementioned examples.
Natalie Portman delivers an astonishing character study as Emilia
Greenleaf a woman who has, in her own words, broken one marriage, and
seems unable to stop herself breaking her own following the death of
her three day old baby. We see her demise through her relationships
with William (Tahan), her husband Jack (Cohen), and his first wife
Carolyn (Kudrow). When Portman is on screen with William the film seems
to move in a believable direction and yet with Jack and with Carolyn,
alone or together something seems not quite as understandably real.
At first I wanted to blame a lack of chemistry between Portman and Cohen and yet there are tender moments seemingly nullifying my questions about their relationship. Charlie Tahan is excellent throughout and so I am left with a question mark against the casting of Jack and Carolyn, or, perhaps, the screenplay involving them. Portman's character is simply played out as a determined and privileged young woman who cannot cope with being denied what she really wants and needs above all else - to be seen as the person she thinks she is and not the woman she really is. Her defensiveness is seen in many of the scenes Portman delivers which is why I consider her performance as astonishingly accurate and I just wish the flaws elsewhere could have been better handled.
Although there is a rewarding end to this film, a catharsis if you wish it to be one, it still leaves a feeling that you have watched an unfinished work, one which could and should have delivered so much more from the characters around Emilia. Perhaps, at heart, the film cannot get beyond a feeling of superficiality that surrounds some of the plot, which is a pity because it could have been so much better.
"The Other Woman" or "Love and Other Impossible Pursuits" as it is
called, is labeled as a comedy and drama? Comedy? Are you kidding me?
The movie is pretty far from being funny. A drama, yes. But comedy? No
The story told in the movie is about Emilia having to come to terms with being the stepmother to William, a rather unique child. But at the same time she is struggling with the trauma of having lost her child, a rocky marriage to Jack and having to take the verbal beatings of his ex-wife Carolyne. The movie deals with a lot of good subjects, matters that are close to heart and real life. However, sadly enough, it never really fully delves into these matters, it is just superficially touched. And that is a terrible shame, because the movie had potential to become a very touchy and heartfelt movie. Instead it just came out as a superficial, shallow movie that wanted too much but delivered too little.
As for the cast in the movie, well they had some really good names on the list, lots of good actors and actresses. Natalie Portman portrays Emilia in a very good way, and you do buy into her performance, except for the crying scenes, they were just not sinking in, they didn't work at all. Lisa Kudrow did a good job as Carolyne (Jack's ex-wife), however, Kudrow is still stuck with the Phoebe Buffay image, so it was casting a big shadow over her, unfortunately. Charlie Tahan did a marvelous job in portraying the troubled boy William. And he was perhaps the most memorable of all in the movie.
This movie had potential to be great, but it failed to deliver, and that was a shame. When the movie was over, I was left with a thought saying "was that really it?". I was disappointed in how the movie dealt with the deep matters that were part of the storyline. And as such, I am only rating the movie a 4 out of 10. The superficial nature of the movie drags it way down, but the solid performances of the cast manages to make the movie bearable to sit through.
Sadly, this movie was not all it could have been...
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