Fabrice du Welz follows up Calvaire and Vinyan with a tale of murderous lovers, drawn from a real-life story
A bored suburban housewife falls for an attractive young bohemian, much to her husband's chagrin, in this puerile slice of soft-focus and artful angst from the director of Fatal Attraction
Lovers are often thrown together in movies - but literally blown together? Not even Gone With The Wind harnessed the elements to such blustery effect. This is how suburban housewife and mother Connie Sumner (Lane) ends up in the arms of her tempestuous younger lover, Paul (Martinez). When a howling gale on the streets of SoHo, New York, sends the two barrelling into each other like a couple of clumps of attractive, designer tumbleweed, the bruised knees spark an immediate, and by the look of the brooding, saturnine Paul, risky infatuation.
You can hardly blame Connie, whose days revolve around a son, Charlie (Sullivan), who will easily bag the next Oscar for Most Irritating Screen Kid, and a husband, Edward (Gere), whose lacklustre, college-professor demeanour belies an unlikely, but thematically appropriate, sinecure as the owner of a Securicor-type armoured car company. But women like Connie would not exist on celluloid, were it not to suffer some terrible unravelling. She can't bear the betrayal of her family and fights to end the affair. But too late, Edward has already got wind of her afternoon trysts and pays Paul a visit.
Lyne took his story from Claude Chabrol's La Femme Infidéle but anyone hoping for a similarly subtle scrutiny of family mores and morally complex, destructive desires will be sorely disappointed by Unfaithful. It's become a critical cliché to peg Lyne as a crude, empty stylist, whose characters are nothing more than ciphers in slick, airbrushed stories - see 9 1/2 Weeks, his woeful Lolita remake and the incredibly stupid Indecent Proposal - but, again, that's pretty much the case here.
The story feels not so much written as engineered, with the characters adding up exactly to what's required for the convolutions of the plot, which suffers a terrible set of wrong turns half way through and squanders any sympathy the audience may have had for the protagonists. Although generally by this time, the soft-focus and artful angst, combined with the Grand Guignol, will have most people gagging.
The film is crammed with A-list talent, which generally misfires. Gere, who long ago disappeared into a miasma of self-regard, is either absent or at sea - a leading man scratching his head, wondering why he has to play the patsy. Martinez plays his French seducer with a Gallic shrug, and doubtless enjoyed the Hollywood pay cheque. But it's not all bad, Diane Lane is as sexy a fortysomething as you could wish to watch, especially in the bath or with her hands down her knickers. In the early part of the film she's provides a tantalising glimmer of the ambivalence and moral double bind buried at the heart of her character. A little more of this and the film wouldn't be such a turkey.
More tosh from Lyne. Rather than bother with Unfaithful, rent La Femme Infidéle and wait to see Diane Lane in her next movie.
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