UNFAITHFUL (2002) 

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Diane Lane
Richard Gere
Oliver Martinez
Erik Per Sullivan
Myra Lucretia Taylor
Michelle Monaghan
Chad Lowe
Joseph Badalucco

Adrian Lyne



Time: 121 mins.
Rating: R
Genre: Romance/Drama/Thriller

Academy Award nomination for Best Actress (Lane).

Lyne's up to his best and worst tricks in this marital merry-go-round of deceit and infidelity. What begins as an intriguing tale of a contented woman's sexual self discovery descends into an unbelievable thriller where less would have been more appreciated. Lane gives the performance of her career as the woman torn between the love she feels for her family and the way her new lover makes her feel. It's a complex and stunning turn that keeps you from hating her for destroying everything she holds dear. Lyne makes a point to never verbalize the reason why she strays from her suburban ideal, yet it's pretty obvious. Dorky husband and child vs. sexy, young Frenchman. You decide. Granted not all women would stray given those same circumstances, especially if their marriage was a happy one...or their husband looked like Richard Gere. However, the film makes a compelling point. One doesn't have to be unhappy to seek validation elsewhere. Sometimes the need to be in control of one's choices, for good or ill, outweighs the potential consequences.

If Lyne was making a picture fully from the woman's point of view the second half would be very, very different. The power behind the notion that she has no real justification for her actions – except to get laid hard and often – is waylaid in the middle by the film's moral need for her to be punished for her infidelity. I have no problem with this aspect, since I believe that no one ever really gets away with cheating without some adverse consequences. What I object to is the ridiculous and over-the-top measures taken by Gere in response to the knowledge. When the film shifts points of view, from the guilt-ridden, yet sexually obsessed wife to the horrified, anger-ridden husband, things get out of hand in a big, big way. The inevitable confrontation between husband and lover is one of the most uncomfortable sequences ever shot on film. Gere's utter devastation is palpable. Martinez is both unrepentant for his actions and sympathetic to Gere's pain. He didn't seek out the relationship, but he took full pleasure in it. The scene vibrates with raw emotion, giving a clear indication that it will not end well.

"There is no such thing as a mistake. There are things you do, and things you don't do."

Since I never felt an emotional connection between Lane and Martinez, I wasn't too upset to see Gere take him out of the picture for good. Lane hates herself and her lover for the unquenchable desire he's raised in her, but she's unable to deny herself the pleasure once the dam's been opened. She eventually comes to her senses, realizing that, though exciting, it's not really making her happy and calls off the affair. Unfortunately, her epiphany comes a few minutes too late. Gere has taken matters into his own hands, accidently causing their future to be irreparably damaged. It's not the murder I had a problem with, but the way he tried to cover it up. It just wasn't plausible and had the audience laughing at the ludicrousness of it. Not something a director wants to hear. What's worse, is that it wasn't really knowledge we needed to have. It would have been more creepy and intense if they had left that sequence out and have us discover along with Lane what eventually happened to her lover. This begins as a psychological thriller and turns into PSYCHO.

Clearly, they needed something for Gere to do. For most of the film, he plays the loving, supportive husband. His role is fairly minor, since the story is focused on Lane's secret life. Perhaps they should have cast someone less famous, which would have balanced the love triangle and gotten rid of the need for such outrageous action on the need of the husband. Much like WHAT LIES BENEATH, this decent, intense story is ruined by the "more is better" syndrome. Subtlety has never been Lyne's forte, but he had a good run going for the better part of the film. What's interesting, is he returns to the same tone after the murder, which makes the whole even more disappointing. The scenes where Lane comes face to face with the knowledge that her husband not only knew about the affair, but potentially got rid of her lover are extraordinary. The reveal behind why Gere's so devastated at finding a cherished family object in the lovers lair is out of left field. I never saw it coming and it packs an emotional wallop that gives the situation a deep sadness while renewing their commitment to one another.

Like most of Lyne's films, many people will be drawn to the cinema for the sex scenes, which are varied and intoxicating without being overly graphic. Kudos to Lane for daring to bare it all, physically and emotionally. She's so luminous with the power of her sexuality you can't take your eyes off her. Despite the hokey middle, this is really her film and she does an amazing job. It's wonderful to finally see her in a role worthy of her talent. She brings honesty, depth and integrity to a part that could have been just about the sex. Gere doesn't really do it for me as an actor, but he carves out a nice performance as the loving husband who fights for a woman he no longer understands and a life he desperately wants to hold onto. Martinez makes the most of the stud role, giving an intriguing if not exactly deep performance. His innate charm is enough to reel in most woman, though I doubt it'd be enough to keep them. Great sex may be hard to find, but pretty boys are a dime a dozen.

Cooler heads apparently prevailed when it came to the film's ending, which might not satisfy some movie goers, but kept on track with who these people were. No boiled rabbits or knife-weilding psychos to be found. Lyne actually takes the cinema high road, which is impressive if commercially risky. Though both characters stepped over to the dark side for a moment, they are innately decent human beings who take responsibility for their actions. Nice to see these days. I wish she could have been punished without the plot turning to murder, but that's the way the cookie crumbles. As it stands, this is an intense adult tale that will make you think about your life and the consequences your actions have on those you love. It's no FATAL ATTRACTION, but it's still a compelling film that deals with very adult issues. Unfortunately, straying into thriller territory ruins the film as a whole, making the experience uneven and unfulfilling.

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