Natalie Portman plays a home wrecker named Emilia in The Other Woman, writer-director Don Roos’ unsatisfying adaptation of Ayelet Waldman’s 2006 novel Love and Other Impossible Pursuits. Can you picture it? No? Neither, it would seem from her unconvincing performance, could Portman, whose Black Swan newsworthiness surely figures in the theatrical release of this two-year-old movie. (It’s already available on cable via on demand.) As the second wife, living in Manhattan affluence, Portman spends most of her time crying or pouting. To be fair, Emilia has some cause for distress: Although she did wrest her malleable lawyer husband (Scott Cohen) away from his high-powered, status-chasing doctor wife (reliably invigorating Roos muse Lisa Kudrow), the reconstituted couple’s newborn baby died. Plus, Emilia doesn’t like her young stepson, William (Charlie Tahan). Hence, I guess, the pouting. Is this the behavior of a home wrecker or a rebellious twentysomething?
Opportunities for bad behavior abound in Waldman’s novel — the author’s prerogative. Roos, though, hasn’t cracked the puzzle of how to explore that behavior on screen in such a way that the characters behave badly in interesting, rather than arbitrary, ways. C