“Deep Water” has been getting pounded into submission since its announced move from theaters to streaming, but make no mistake, if you’re a fan of “Indecent Proposal”, “Unfaithful”, and of course, “Fatal Attraction” director Adrian Lyne, you’re still gonna get your fair share of fucked up sexual power dynamics.
The director hasn’t made a movie in 20 years and “Deep Water” is equally the type of film that showcases his great sense of conveying complex and impassioned emotions while at the same time being a narrative that seems to exist on the shaky ground of contrivance and predictability.
It stars Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas, playing married couple Vic and Melinda. She’s the life of any party; drinking, dancing, not just interested in any man she sees but, we assume, ready to conduct an affair. And Vic not just knows about this but looks on, seemingly seething, as she consistently casts him in the role of cuckold.
How far is Vic willing to take his anger? At one particular party, he tells his wife’s new lover what he did to the old lover, who did disappear. It’s not good. But is he joking? And why even cast suspicion on himself? This begins a rumor among friends and all the other soccer moms, who do think it a joke but at a certain point.
Well I don’t want to get too far into it but bodies do start getting discovered, yet the cops barely question him, only one neighbor, the crime writer (Tracy Letts) of course, thinks him odd, and even Melinda’s potential suitors never find any of this suspicious. Narrative conveniences pile-up, the ending is a real laugh, and let’s face it, once de Armas starts bringing guy after guy home, it’s pretty obvious, and repetitive, where it will lead.
The film is based on a Patricia Highsmith book, which is supposedly more interested in these crimes than in the nature of the sexual relationship of Vic and Melinda. If you’re familiar with Lyne’s work though, you know he’s interested in just the opposite and so it’s the smaller, titillating moments in this movie that work better.
He’s very attuned to what fuels the relationship between these two- the things that turn them on are unhealthy and narcissistic and they exist to promote strong, sharp reactions from each other in order to feel anything at all. They are not likable people, and much of the time their behavior is psychotic, but their damage is trashy titillation.
De Armas is no soccer mom, that’s for sure. She exists to look sexy and feel burning desire, to taunt her husband and leave him fuming to have to earn her love all over again, every day. It’s infuriating just watching her but then you realize that’s the point. She’ll never be the caring wife, but she’ll always be who Vic will re-want.
For Affleck, this is a role that almost seems auto-biographical, not just for a mid-way joke about poker but as a man who seems to get bored way too easily. Vic is too stoic, too interested in whatever he’s doing in his garage to care most of the time.
The film is hokey and there isn’t really much mystery to solve, but there is a flame to this relationship- something sick and twisted that draws these two together. For much of the time, they simmer just fine but the few times Lyne gets to the heart of it are worth it. It’s not one of his best, but it’s not just treading water either.
Rating: 6 out of 10