It’s been 20 years since Adrian Lane’s last film, Infidelity (2002), and it’s been 20 years since any of his films were a big hit (Indecent Proposal, 1993) Nearly 30 years. Lyne’s other big deals were “Flashdance” (1983) and “Fatal Attraction” (1987). Taste those geeky headlines. Do you want smooth and dirty? Well, maybe you don’t know. Either way, Lynn is your man.
In “deep water” it certainly delivers smooth dirty, though that’s not a big deal. Although starring Ben Affleck, Ana de Armas and Tracy Letts, and based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith. The really nasty surprise at the end is pure Highsmith, especially when the emotions are so sharp. But getting there is a chore – and the concrete giveaway that delivers the surprise is the stupid hammer.
“Deep Water” begins streaming on Hulu on March 18.
Vic Van Allen (Affleck) made a fortune designing drone software. He retired early and lives in a gorgeous Louisiana home with his wife Melinda (De Armas) and their irrepressible 6-year-old. The best part of the movie is the interaction between Vic and the little girl Trixie. It feels uninhibited and authentic, like there’s basically nothing else in “Deep Water.”
Vic keeps himself busy with mountain biking and snail farming (that’s not a typo). Melinda has been busy deceiving Vic. She does so very publicly. He takes her infidelity in stride in an incredibly masochistic way. “I didn’t feel the need to decide her choice,” Vick said. “I accept and love her the way she is.” You’d think he was being interviewed by “The View” rather than a police detective.
Or maybe Vic no Take Melinda’s infidelity in stride. It must be said that her lover has been disappearing with impressive actuarial irregularity. An open marriage is one thing. Opening and closing the box is another case.
For a stylish thriller, it needs to be at least a little stylish, with an occasional thrill. Neither does Deep Water. Lane tries to visually enliven things with ’80s flash: lots of reflections in glass, brightness of a sunny room, general humidity (rain, pool, steam atmosphere): like a music video from the MTV era, just No music and lazily editing.
Affleck and de Armas are attractive, capable performers. What a joyous shock she brought on the dance floor with 007 in “No Time to Die” last fall. But attraction and power will only take you so far when you’re being misled. Melinda needs to be arched and relentless. Here, De Armas comes across as capricious and petty. As for Affleck, he seemed tired and sullen.Admittedly, Vic has a lot of frustration, starting with his wife’s taste in men (including
stinging himself, of course). But being sullen doesn’t make for terribly interesting viewing.
It’s been a busy six months for Affleck. “The Last Duel” opens in October. He and Matt Damon teamed up with Nicole Holofcener on the script, and Affleck gave a comical performance as a debauched French aristocrat. Two months later, he became the bartender uncle of the leading man in “The Gentle Bar.” Affleck is remarkable: easy, broad, casual charm.
Vic can certainly benefit from these qualities. Instead, he may be the older, wealthier brother of another Affleck character, the husband in Gone Girl (2014). Both are locked in a toxic, murderous, filthiest marriage. Gillian Flynn, who wrote the novel and screenplay for that film, is a big admirer of Highsmith’s book. The similarity is that you’d think she’s the casting director here.
Directed by Adrian Lane. Written by Zach Helm and Sam Levinson; based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith. Starring Ben Affleck, Ana de Armas, Tracy Letts. Stream on Hulu. 115 minutes. R (nudity, language, erotic sex scenes)
Mark Feeney can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.