For about five minutes at the beginning of its Third Act, the adultery-fueled sexual potboiler "Unfaithful" seems to mull over the possibility of becoming more than just a glossy, tawdry, yuppie bodice-ripper.
The suburban New York couple, played by Diane Lane and Richard Gere, whose marriage has come unglued because of the wife's fling with a seductive young Lothario, realize as their eyes meet across a crowded gathering at their home that they both know each other's worst secret and they could be dangerous to one other.
At this moment, director Adrian Lyne has a chance to twist "Unfaithful" into a subtle psychological puzzle, a game of trust and mistrust. But such intellectual aspirations have never been Lyne's cup of tea. The director of "9 1/2 Weeks," "Fatal Attraction," "Indecent Proposal" and the 1998 "Lolita" remake, he's always been far more interested in psychosexual sensationalism than emotional-cerebral exploration. Just as he's beginning to delve more deeply into these characters' conscience, Lyne fogs up the lens again and gets lost in the motivational ambiguity.
An utterly elementary remake on 1969's "La Femme Infidele," the first half of the film is standard-issue seamy-steamy, bored housewife fantasy schlock. Lane plays a sexy soccer mom in her late 30s who scratches the itch of marital ennui by tiptoeing into a sweaty affair with a bedroom-eyed French book collector (Olivier Martinez) several years her junior. He charms her into the bed of his rustic-hip SoHo loft with dirty dime-novel dialogue and they make love in sultry scenes designed to skirt the MPAA's "R" rating.
Every hackneyed plot development comes right on cue. Lane awkwardly runs into friends when she's supposed to be meeting The Other Man. A conscience-driven attempted break-up with him turns into a battle of wills and an episode of especially kinky sex. A montage of family images is juxtaposed with sex scenes, just in case you can't fathom on your own what she's betraying. A suspicious Gere hires a private detective to follow his wife and snap incriminating black-and-white pictures, which Lane later discovers in her husband's jacket pocket.
This is a film with decent performances (Lane as the libidinous woman and Gere as the wronged, deeply hurt husband relish in playing against type) and a few good surprises as the three points of the love triangle reveal themselves to one another. But "Unfaithful" is far more interested in Lane's naked body than in her mind or her emotional state. The characters are unsympathetic, foolish and terribly transparent liars (especially when the plot calls for the police to enter the picture), and Lyne offers no clues to why Lane feels bored in her life as a happy wife and mom. It's just assumed that SUV-driving suburban housewives are by definition caldrons of untapped lust chained to kitchen sinks.
If the picture's trashier elements appeal to you, pass on "Unfaithful" and rent "Red Shoe Diaries" (the pilot for a 1992 Showtime series with David Duchovny and Brigitte Bako) which connects with its characters on a visceral level and is dead sexy to boot.
If the themes of adultery and its consequences interest you more -- or even if you just want to see Diane Lane nude and/or giving a superb performance -- try 1999's "A Walk On the Moon." That film explores the psyche, the desires and the heart (which never enters into the plot of "Unfaithful") of a cheating wife instead of just exploiting her libido for voyeuristic thrills.
Run time: 124 mins
In Theaters: Friday 10th May 2002
Box Office USA: $52.7M
Box Office Worldwide: $119.1M
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Production compaines: Intertainment
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 49%
Fresh: 79 Rotten: 82
IMDB: 6.7 / 10
Director: Adrian Lyne
Starring: Diane Lane as Connie Sumner, Richard Gere as Ed Sumner, Olivier Martinez as Paul Martel, Erik Per Sullivan as Charlie Sumner, Chad Lowe as Bill Stone, Myra Lucretia Taylor as Gloria, Michelle Monaghan as Lindsay, Kate Burton as Tracy, Margaret Colin as Sally
Also starring: Dominic Chianese
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