Adrian Lyne is no stranger to exploring infidelity and jealousy, two of the most recurring themes that defined some of his works in the late ’80s through early 2010s. This includes Fatal Attraction (1987, still his seminal masterpiece of erotic thriller), Indecent Proposal (1993) and Unfaithful (2002). The latter turns out to be his unexpectedly last film at the time and it took him 20 years long before he finally made his comeback.
Well, more like a would-be comeback, even though Lyne returns to his familiar erotic-thriller territory in Deep Water. Based on Patricia Highsmith’s 1957 novel of the same name, the film follows a married couple (Ben Affleck’s Vic Van Allen and Ana de Armas’ Melinda), who has a beautiful young daughter named Trixie (Grace Jenkins). They seem like a picture-perfect couple: Vic is a handsome and successful tech entrepreneur, who has already retired early after making a fortune designing a chip for drone warfare. His wife, Melinda, is young and sexy but their sex life is passionless.
And so, in order to keep their relationship intact, we soon learn they settle for an open marriage, where Melinda is free to have an affair with a series of young lovers for some casual sex. But Vic seems increasingly reluctant with the way Melinda flirting with other men.
If you are expecting the same erotic-thriller vibes similar to Fatal Attraction or Unfaithful, Lyne’s latest film is surprisingly muted in its tone. Sure, there are sex and nudity but they feel more like an afterthought. It’s a pity because casting Ana de Armas in an erotic thriller and the fact it was directed by the master of the genre, Adrian Lyne himself should have been something to look forward to. While she sure looks alluring throughout the film, she is sadly given little to do to make her character worthwhile. Her co-star, Ben Affleck fares even worst as he appears all glum and bored. I get that he plays a jealous husband but does it have to be to an extent of a comatose-style of acting?
Zach Helm and Sam Levinson, where the latter is known for writing HBO’s Euphoria, botches the potential of exploring the psychological aspect involving Vic and Melinda’s open marriage and the dangerous game of illicit sex. Instead, the story flatlines for the most part of the film and it doesn’t help either that Lyne’s direction feels the same either. There is little suspense going on here and it sure as hell made the nearly 2-hour running time feels like a slog to sit through. The first half of the film would see Lyne lingers the pace with repetitive scenes of parties and plenty of teasing here and there.
Even the film does progress a little with one of Melinda’s lovers ending up dead during a house party, Lyne doesn’t seem to be interested to ratchet up the tension further. Except for the final third act, where the film briefly jolts to life with a thrilling and well-staged chase sequence, even though it feels like an excuse to spice things up.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’m against a deliberately-paced film, which is seemingly more internalised in both emotional and psychological point-of-views. But no matter how restrained Lyne tries to aim in Deep Water, it all barely matters if the film’s stubbornly ambiguous nature feels like it’s missing the big picture. By the time the film reaches its finale and the way Lyne subverts the expectation (I didn’t read the novel so I just based my review on what the film offers here) is, well, kind of baffling to me.
So much for the long wait after 20 years. I figured Adrian Lyne’s return to feature filmmaking would bring back the long-stale erotic-thriller genre to its former glory. Too bad Deep Water isn’t one of them and it somewhat made sense why the film got dumped straight to streaming instead of a potential cinema release.
Deep Water is currently streaming on Hulu and Amazon Prime Video.