ZAMM.COM: Wonder 'Woman'

By Martin Grove,

Other opening: Fanboys are Hollywood's usual marketing target, but women can generate hit movies too.

This weekend should see that audience turn out for The Other Woman. The PG-13 romantic comedy, opening at about 3,000 theaters, is directed by The Notebook's Nick Cassavetes and stars Cameron Diaz, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Kate Upton and Leslie Mann.

The Other Woman is tracking equally well in double digits as a first choice film for women over and under 25, which should translate into a strong box office impact. Its story, which is perfect for the younger and older female demo it's targeted to, revolves around Carly (Diaz), a tough New York lawyer, who meets and falls for Mark (Coster-Waldau). When Carly makes a surprise visit to Mark's home, she discovers he's married to Kate (Mann). Carly and Kate then team up and track down Mark's other mistress (Upton) to plot their revenge.

The Other Woman should play to the same female demo that accounted for Bridesmaids' success. Bridesmaids opened May 13, 2011 to $26.2 million and blossomed in the coming weeks as word of mouth spread among female moviegoers. It went on to gross $169.1 million domestically.

By opening in the quieter days of late April rather than the more crowded mid-May, The Other Woman's getting an important three week head start on Bridesmaids. That should help it connect faster with its audience before the summer movie frenzy heats up.

Films that play to women tend to benefit from two factors that result in multiple ticket sales. There's the drag-along benefit of women bringing their husbands or boyfriends to see films they really want to see. Conversely, when women don't want to see a male targeted movie, they tell their men, "You can see this one with your guy friends."

There's also the relatively new phenomenon of girl groups getting together to see female-targeted films as part of a night-on-the-town. That's been a driving force in the past for chick flix like Bridesmaids and Sex and the City.

In the case of Sex, the girl groups factor was truly huge. Not only was it a must-see movie for younger and adult women, but many of them even turned up at theatres dressed as their favorite Sex character--Carrie, Samantha, Miranda or Charlotte.

Sex opened May 30, 2008, to $57 million and went on to gross $152.6 million domestically.

Sex, of course, had the advantage of being a high profile title thanks to the hit HBO TV series it was based upon. Because The Other Woman's an original, it doesn't have the huge pre-awareness that a TV spinoff starts out with. Nonetheless, The Other Woman's total awareness scores on tracking surveys are very high, particularly among 25-plus women. They're nearly as high among under-25 women.

The Other Woman producer Julie Yorn (Bride Wars) had been looking for a comedy vehicle for a strong female duo or ensemble for a long time before finally connecting with an idea by first time feature screenwriter Melissa K. Stack. 

According to Yorn, Stack was the right person to write the screenplay because of her dry perspective and intelligence. "We fell in love with her. I can count on one hand how many times this happens, but we got the first 30 pages of Melissa's script and I said, 'We’re making this movie.'"

In their initial conversations about the story, Stack outlined what she said she didn't want to see in the movie. "I said, 'I don’t want the wife to be a doormat or a sad sap. I don't want the other woman to just be a bitch.'" We talked about the stereotypes you see sometimes, the so-called 'movie math' of women."

Stack's sources of inspiration stemmed, she noted, from watching a lot of French comedies in which everybody’s sleeping with somebody who's not their spouse. "In America, we have a more Puritanical view of adultery and it was interesting to see a variety of French comedies in which the characters were dealing with relationships as the complicated subjects that they are. It's messy but real, and not just about the bad guys and the good guys."

Yorn sees The Other Woman as a relationship story whose most important connection turns out to be friendship, not romance. The movie is about the love story between these women and about them taking back their power, she notes.

Once she had the film's script in place, Yorn began searching for a director. Her choice, Nick Cassavetes, had already scored with films like The Notebook and Unhook the Stars, both of which had strong lead female roles.

When Cassavetes read Stack's script his reaction was, "I have a strong mother, daughters and sisters. I have a strong connection to women and I really love what this movie says about the power of female relationships."

Yorn points out that Cassavetes had his hands full dealing with input from a female producer, writer, studio executive and lead actresses. "You walk on the set," she laughs, "and you see this guy, and he's like six foot seven, with tattoos all over, and you wonder and wonder, that's the guy who's directing this movie? But Nick is the most sensitive of any of us! 

"With Nick's body of work, the one thing I saw across the board is the honesty. There's never a false moment in his movies. Even with comedy and the absurdity of some of the situations and hijinks, he’s still looking for an honest moment from a character. He never wants anything to feel implausible within the world of that character. Nick has a really romantic outlook."

For Cassavetes, the immediate attraction to directing the film was its story: In many films, women are portrayed as being competitive and at odds, especially when there's a man involved. In this story, Carly doesn’t know Mark is married and she immediately backs off when she learns the truth. Kate understands that Carly really wasn't at fault. But Kate is so wrapped up in how to deal with her big problem that the sheer force of her character compels Carly to be her friend.

"As soon as I read the script, I thought this is a relationship I rarely see, and I wanted to make sure that, if I had an opportunity to make the film, we made it right," said Cassavetes.

As the characters began taking shape in Stack's screenplay, Yorn says she had only one actress in mind to play Carly. "The dream was always to cast Cameron Diaz," she explains. "It became about the right combination of women that felt believable and identifiable." 

Diaz was immediately attracted to the story's fresh look at how women relate to one another in the face of unusual circumstances. "I thought it was such an interesting concept," she recalls. "When Carly realizes Mark is married, she doesn't want to have anything to do with him or the wife. But here's this other woman, Kate, who is asking for her help, and there's no way she cannot help her.

"I just thought that is a beautiful thing. It's about friendship and about women. What I also loved about the script is that it wasn't man-bashing and it wasn't about revenge. It's about a journey that these women take with one another to learn about themselves. The three women's lives are so different that their paths would have never crossed under normal circumstances. And because they have this thing in common, they come together and become a team. What they do to Mark is more to reveal who he is rather than to be vengeful on him. I thought all of those things were unique and a lot of fun to bring to life."

Bottom line: It's been an outstanding April with Captain America: The Winter Soldier grossing $201.5 million in three weeks and Rio 2 doing $75.4 million in two weeks. Now The Other Woman stands to end the month with some sexier box office numbers.

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Ends March 7, 2017

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