Despite what should be the sizzling allure of Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas as its stars, the rather plodding sexual thriller Deep Water feels like a reject from the pile of scripts its director Adrian Lyne got in the ’80s. His career was on fire then, notably for Fatal Attraction and other films like 9 1/2 Weeks, Indecent Proposal and his most recent feature credit, 2002’s Unfaithful, which earned Diane Lane a Best Actress Oscar nomination. But no one is getting nominated for this one, which is the first english language screen adaptation of mystery writer Patricia Highsmith’s 1957 novel, a much lesser work than other classics of hers that made it to the movies including The Talented Mr. Ripley and Strangers on a Train.
The problem with Deep Water is its slow-burning plot revelations are just too repetitive and full of narrative nonsense as to emphasize this film’s complete lack of credibility. The twists don’t pay off, and a key change from the book to the character played by Affleck just doesn’t really pay off the way Lyne and his screenwriters Zach Helm and Sam Levinson (Euphoria) perhaps thought it would.
In the book, Vic (Affleck) is a rather meek husband to Melinda (de Armas), who is a class-A flirt and alcoholic constantly flaunting her sexuality with younger guys, all in sight of Vic. The reason appears to be a passionless, far-from-exciting marriage — but it made some sense considering that Vic, a microchip inventor and snail hobbyist, is not exactly a catch. In the film, though, Vic and Melinda seem to have a really hot sex life, as seen is some early scenes, so as to make you wonder what the problem really is that makes her so obviously play around. It’s even to the point where friends and others in town, not to mention her husband, clearly notice her ways. Lyne doesn’t exactly make any of this subtle, especially when she takes up with a musician, ostensibly for piano lessons, and is seen flirting with him as he plays, you guessed it, “The Lady Is a Tramp.”
Melinda won’t exactly win mother of the year either, as Vic seems far more interested in the well-being of daughter Trixie (yes, that is her name), played by Grace Jenkins whose big moment is lip synching to Leo Sayer’s “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing” in the car’s back seat.
The initial setup plot-wise is that a good male “friend” of Melinda’s has gone missing, and Vic blatantly tells people — including a new younger male friend named Joel (Brendan C. Miller) — that he killed him by smashing his head with a hammer. No one takes Vic too seriously, but it isn’t long before the unseen man’s body washes up in the river with several knife wounds. Vic clearly doesn’t approve of his wife’s drunken flirtations, and is driven by insane (?) jealousy. But is he really a murderer? Does he go that far?
‘Deep Water’ Trailer: Ben Affleck & Ana De Armas Lead Hulu Thriller From ‘Fatal Attraction’s Adrian Lyne
Well, we have at least two more men lined up, including that aforementioned musician Charlie de Lisle (Euphoria’s Jacob Elordi) and then another friend of the family, Tony (Finn Wittrock). As all hell breaks out during a pool party at Vic and Melinda’s, the cops show up and begin pointing fingers at Vic, but is there any reason to do that? Does the audience know more than they do? Does the audience still care at this point?
New neighbor Don Wilson (Tracy Letts) does, with his own suspicions coming out in bits and pieces. Also Vic’s best buddies (Lil Rel Howery, Dash Mihok) also are around to witness the sordid behavior of Melinda and offer advice to Vic. There are twists and turns (literally) as Lyne ratchets up the action — all leading to a big climax, as it were.
As for the stars, both have been shown to greater effect in similar genre efforts like Affleck’s Gone Girl and de Armas’ Knives Out, and they do their best (they were romantically linked in real life at one point), but chemistry is lacking. Among the others, Wittrock and Elordi are given one-dimensional roles, and Letts is over the top.
Disney — which dumped its intended theatrical release and handed it off to Hulu, where it begins streaming on Friday — has asked critics not to reveal key plot details, so we will leave it at that. Producers are Arnon Milchan, Guyman Casady, Benjamin Forkner and Anthony Katagas. Check out my video review with scenes from the movie at the link above.
Do you plan to see Deep Water? Let us know what you think.
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