Unfaithful (review)

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Adrian Lyne’s Pretentious European Art Sex Film

I love Diane Lane. I do. I love that she’s talented and gorgeous and looks like an actual real woman, with lines on her face and intelligence in her eyes. But even smart women can fall under the influence of the wrong man. I speak of Adrian Lyne, of course, who in his films turns women into whores or crazy sex fiends. Lane deserves better than this.

Lyne wants us to think Unfaithful is a “real” story about infidelity, about how and why “real” people cheat, and the “real” consequences. It’s, you know, arthouse. And maybe the French will love it — Woody Allen seems to think the French will watch any old crap, for instance — because zhere iz no Hollywood bullsheet like mo-ti-va-SHON to mire zhe characterz in bougeoise ex-pec-ta-SHONS. It is, how you say, gen-you-un. Oui.
Non. Maybe I’m just a romantic singleton, but I think I’d need an, I dunno, reason to go way the hell out of my way to cheat on my husband. I’m not talking about spying a handsome and irresistible stranger between the stacks at Strand Books and having a quick shag in the back before you come to your senses and think Ohmigod what have I done. This, I could see — hormones betray us before our brains kick in sometimes, not that I’m saying this has ever happened to me or anything. But that’s not what Lane (The Perfect Storm, The Virginian) is forced to do here. Non. She spies a (supposedly) handsome stranger and doesn’t seem to have much trouble resisting him at all, then goes home and thinks about it while cooking spaghetti for her all-American kid and feeding the dog and generally making Martha Stewart look like a trailer-park queen, and then drives to the railroad station and she buys a Metro North ticket and she rides 45 minutes into Manhattan and she stands outside Grand Central trying to hail a cab for 10 minutes and she sits in city traffic for another 45 minutes and she pays the driver and she gets out of the cab and she climbs the stairs of an apartment building and she rings a bell and she climbs some more stairs to impulsively fall into the arms of a handsome stranger and begin an impulsive affair with him.

He’s, aha, French and a used-bookseller and unshaven and played by the monotonous Olivier Martinez. I guess Lane’s Connie Sumner didn’t get the memo that the French bohemian thing is so 1977. If the guy had been maybe Russian, or — hey! — Croatian and played by Goran Visnjic, then, sure, who could resist him? We need something — anything! — to help us grasp the concept that this seemingly happily married woman would betray her husband like this. I don’t see the appeal of Richard Gere myself, but he is generally acknowledged by many apparently otherwise sane women to be one of the sexiest men on the planet, even if blinks a lot, even if he was in that godawful Autumn in New York, even if he is starting to look distressingly like the flabby-chested Harrison Ford of What Lies Beneath. Her son, Charlie (Erik Per Sullivan: The Cider House Rules) — Charlie, for Normal Rockwell’s sake — seems like the perfect kid, funny and cute and smart and all that. She lives in an impossibly perfect Westchester mini mansion and can afford to purchase items from fancy Soho boutiques that give you, free for nothing, embossed shopping bags.

Oh, but if any of it made any sense at all, Lyne wouldn’t have the pretentious European arthouse excuse to fetishize housewifery by filming sensuous scenes of dishwashing — she may be a housewife but she’s still a woman, don’t you know — to allude to the suggestive nature of water pistols, to highlight confused emotion by focusing on oranges rolling around the trunk of Connie’s car (representative of the conflict between a trip to the supermarket and a trip to fuck the brains out of your French bohemian lover, perhaps).

Mostly, I think, Lyne was looking for a way to get a sophisticated babe like Lane as naked as possible. Sure, honey, it’s art.

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