“THE OTHER MAN”: Liam Neeson Chases Antonio Banderas
Messing around on your partner is never an easy business. In “Unfaithful”, a 2002 movie about a wife fooling around on her husband, a titilating moment (for the audience) comes when Diane Lane’s adulteress character finds out that the young man she has been cheating on her husband with– who has just been found murdered, by the way– was married himself. Her reaction to his “dishonesty” is priceless. Oh, man! The art of cheating can be complex. We could have used more titillating complexity in the new drama “The Other Man”.
At the beginning of the movie, we meet an attractive English family at a fashion show: Peter (Liam Neeson), a tightly-wound CEO; his wife Lisa (Laura Linney),a high fashion shoe designer; and their daughter Abigail (Ramola Garai). In a subsequent scene, while Peter and Lisa are alone, Lisa inexplicably brings up the subject of infidelity– not quite a confessional that she did anything, but an unsettling subject of conversation nevertheless. For Peter, it’s the same initial feeling that you’d get if your partner or spouse, out of the blue, starts talking about threesomes. Indeed, there’s something unusual brewing beneath the surface of this family, including the dynamic between Peter and his beautiful yet moody daughter. Later on, Peter retrieves retrieves a sexy voicemail on Lisa’s phone (The man sounds a lot like… Antonio Banderas!), and he also discovers an ominous note which simply states “Lake Como”. On Lisa’s computer, he then discovers sexy photos of his wife topless in bed, as well as a man coming out of the shower. The man looks a lot like… Antonio Banderas! Peter learns that the other man’s name is “Ralph”, and Ralph soon becomes Peter’s obsession (Calm down, guys, it’s not in THAT way…sadly), much to the concern of Peter’s co-workers and daughter. With the help of a computer-savvy peer, Peter hits the jackpot: He is able to track down Ralph in Milan, Italy: a darkly handsome Latino in a designer suit who ritually plays solo chess in a cafe. It’s… Antonio Banderas! Peter befriends the titular “other man”, a mixture of arty eccentric and suave ladies’ man (“Marriage is hell. I prefer hotels and heaven”, he states). Before you know it, Ralph (who pronounces his name “Rafe”) ;is giving details about his relationship with Lisa. It’s maddening for Peter… but the husband’s anger is tempered by his curiosity, and he keeps going back to “Rafe” for more deets about the affair.
“The Other Man” is from Richard Eyre, the director of the superb “Notes on a Scandal”. Like its predecessor, it’s slick and well filmed. But it’s not quite as engaging, interesting, or (here comes that word again…) titillating as that predecessor. Yes, there is a big twist in the plot… but after that unexpected revelation and its accompanying gasp from the audience, there’s not much else to keep us excited about “The Other Man” except for the physical attributes of the two lead males Neeson and Banderas– two such widely different examples of male attractiveness. Oh, there’s also the great scenery! So, yes, “The Other Man” is a feast for the eyes. But this reviewer was hoping for a little more, shall we say… “bite”. In one scene of the film, one of the characters comes close to repeating a pivotal act that was done in “Unfaithful”, the movie I mentioned before– but he stops short. It seems that director Eyre wanted the movie to be a pure drama, and not drift into melodrama. But in this case, a little melodrama might have made “The Other Man” a more passionate affair.
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