Schindler and Zorro, together at last!
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 paired with Oscar nominee Liam Neeson and three-time
Oscar nominee Laura Linney.
Why was it so difficult to get a tiny theatrical release for this film?
Because The Other Man is an odd movie which would be impossible to market
or advertise. In fact, if I tell you right now what 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 atmosphere.
* 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
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
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