There’s Something Debatable About Adrian Lyne’s Twisted Domestic Drama Deep water – a tabloid scandal, almost eerie trash. It’s the first film in 20 years since Lyne, who dominated the erotic thriller genre of the 1980s and ’90s with a string of steamy hits like Deadly attraction and Indecent proposal. The film premiered live at Hulu on March 18, and stars Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas, two who began a sensational romance on set, but split long before The producers of the pandemic-delayed film could shoot a promotional campaign around them. Even the way it was released had an aura of opprobrium, of something illegal. Disney, which acquired the film when it acquired 20th Century Fox, delayed it twice before withdrawing its entire theatrical release, eventually transferring the film on Hulu (and Amazon, for international release. ) with almost tangible distaste. Could it be too perverted, too out-of-date, or simply too bad?
“Not really” is the answer to all three questions. True to Lyne’s form, Deep water is a smooth, entertaining cod psychological thriller that’s chic enough to be gripping, yet sophisticated enough to satisfy cravings for cinematic junk food. And while its fate may seem dire for a film that was once considered a film, its producers, at least, are a reputable work – they are clearly betting for another movie Lost Girl – it’s the perfect prospect for a Friday night with a bucket-sized glass of wine.
Deep water based on the classic 1957 novel by The talented Mr. Ripley author Patricia Highsmith at her best, sour, perverse work. Highsmith loves nothing more than pinning, with brutal precision, the dark, frustrated desires of the suburban American man. The filmmakers’ unexpected genius who found the perfect modern subject for one of her icy studies of computation would be Ben Affleck.
Affleck plays Vic Van Allen, a wealthy idler who retires to the posh suburbs of New Orleans with the spoils of a microchip he designed for combat drones. He rides his bike, edits his makeup quarterly, pampers his glittery 6-year-old daughter, Trixie, and keeps snails in his garage. He also tolerates his wife Melinda (de Armas), a fiery girl who conducts brazen affairs with slick young men right under Vic’s nose, showing them off at social events. and even invite them over for a sneaky dinner. Vic’s friends view his patience with a mixture of admiration, pity, and disappointment. What holds him back is the central mystery of the story; when will he shoot and is that what fuels the suspense.
Vic is a strange character. He seems to wander through his life dazedly, but he’s not exactly a passive person. He always seems to be in control – too much control, perhaps. He only comes to life fully when he talks to Trixie or when he stares at his snails, scenes that Lyne and cinematographer Eigil Bryld film with alien lights. (Snails are a strange and unsettling highlight of Highsmith’s; Lyne said that the studio really wanted to cut them, but he was adamant about keeping them.)
Affleck’s performance is finely tuned. Most of the time, he’s in Vic with a ghastly barrenness, accentuated only by his physical size. When he was out of the frame, even his beard looked bored, it seemed the performance was a conscious parody. Sad Affleck meme. But there are also moments where he shows off a terrifying inch of steel. A former boyfriend of Melinda has disappeared under mysterious circumstances, and at the beginning of the film, Vic frightens her newest lover by claiming to have killed him. Affleck’s restrained, hyper-controlled rage makes it all too believable. He purposely keeps Vic unreadable, up until and even beyond the pool party that makes things come to life in the middle of the movie.
For Melinda, Vic was something else. In Highsmith’s novels, their marriage is bitter and loveless, but that’s not Lyne’s kind of bond. So in the movie, the couple’s cycle of jealousy and provocation is brought up with sexual perversion. De Armas is an intensely charismatic performer; think how charming she is Pull out the knifeOr how quickly and elegantly she stole the whole thing There’s no time to die, and imagine all that energy being transformed into a feature-length fireworks display of messy sex. She might have overpowered such a subdued Affleck, but it felt like a meeting between unstoppable force and immovable object. Motivation is not one-way as it appears. Vic’s refusal to let Melinda get ahead of him is another kind of control, and Lyne, filthy-minded, thinks he can be taken out of it – or both can.
Not that Deep water It is truly a work of profound psychological complexity. Lyne started right where he left off in 2002 Unfaithful (the scene where Diane Lane thinks about sex on the train). It is shocking that his work has gone through 20 wild years, not achieving the desired projects.
During that time, his themes, filmmaking style, and gender politics (to the extent he had) had completely fallen out of fashion. His films carry an air of sophistication, thanks to his wonderfully realistic performances and solid script (in Deep waterthe case of Zach Helm and Happiness host Sam Levinson), and he’s there with Ridley and Tony Scott as one of the most influential visual stylists of his generation. His blend of lavish real estate porn and extremely sultry, backlit close-ups have helped define the past three and a half decades of movies and TV series like how. But his Hitchcockian overtones are wide, his instincts are flexible, and for the most part, he makes unashamed boilers that put it all on the surface. Deep water is no different.
That’s why it doesn’t really hurt the movie, it’s a bit silly when it builds to the climax. What a nostalgic pleasure it is to watch a bit of starry, elevated hokum like this hang out over the long haul. Lyne cleverly places the great playwright and character actor Tracy Letts in the small but important role of a local writer who believes Vic’s word about killing one of Melinda’s boyfriends, and brings the his doubts into their logical conclusion. Letts’ bubbly jealousy and frivolity add a nice texture to the frozen melodrama, while Highsmith’s decision to revise its dismal conclusion works surprisingly well.
But the film belongs to de Armas and Affleck. Especially Affleck, who, in performances as varied as this and his interesting role in Last match. Sad Affleck is an avatar associated with thwarted, helpless middle age, clutching failure from the jaws of privilege and success. Deep water gives us an indirect thrill of watching him let it all go.
Deep water will begin streaming on Hulu on March 18.