It’s been almost 20 years since Adrian Lyne’s last feature film, Unfaithful, and a lot has changed in cinema. The hyper-successful 80s and 90s erotic thrillers virtually disappeared or were relegated to cheap, straight-to- [insert non-cinema format here]. Along with them went the romcoms and the wacky adventure blockbusters like When Harry Met Sally and Romancing The Stone. Nowadays, if you don’t have a cape, you don’t fly.
Yet, like a pendulum, things always tend to swing back around, and we seem to currently have a renaissance on our hands with such films as Marry Me, The Lost City, and Lyne’s return to his old stomping grounds with Deep Water. Shelved for the last few years, the film stars Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas as Vic and Melinda, a married New Orleans couple who live in style with their downright adorable daughter Trixie (a highly engaging Grace Jenkins). This impossibly gorgeous couple may love each other dearly, but their open relationship allows for Melinda to see other men, often right in front of her husband.
Although seemingly stoic about this arrangement, Vic, a semi-retired man who created a computer chip used for drone strikes (Evil Job Alert!) and now spends a lot of his free time tending to his extensive collection of live snails (Insanely Obvious Metaphor Alert!…and yes…seriously…snails), harbors a certain amount of jealousy. Whenever she flirts with her posse of much younger men, Vic’s mouth goes from a small horizontal line to a slightly tighter horizontal line. Vic, and Affleck, holds his cards tightly to his chest. At a party one night, Affleck corners one of Melinda’s latest, Joel (Brendan Miller) and warns him that he murdered Melinda’s last boyfriend. When word gets around, Vic and Melinda’s friends, including Tracy Letts as an aspiring novelist/screenwriter, Kristen Connolly as his over-it wife, and Lil Rel Howery and Dash Mihok as the comic voices of reason recognize that Vic was just joking, although antennae have been raised. But is Vic really joking? As bodies start to pile up we wonder, as well as think it’s all a red herring or perhaps the couple are in on something nefarious together. Lyne and his writers, Zach Helm (Stranger Than Fiction) and Sam Levinson (Euphoria) have got us right where they want us as this story works its way towards its bonkers final act.
Now I want to go on record by saying that Deep Water is a truly terrible film, but it’s also exactly what we need. I lived for Glenn Close boiling rabbits! I wanted a blindfolded Kim Basinger to taste that damn strawberry! Sure, why not base a premise on someone willing to pay a fortune to have sex with Demi Moore? With Deep Water, we have Ana de Areas backing dat ass up against the deliciousness that is Jacob Elordi and Finn Wittrock. We have Ben Affleck fingering his wife whenever his jealously explodes into uncontrolled horniness. Throw in poisonous snails, a car/bicycle chase sequence, a daughter who sings Leo Sayer in the back of the car, and an overly ambitious character who gives us a blow-by-blow of their phone’s autocorrect deficiencies, and W-E-L-C-O-M-E B-A-C-K hoary 90s thriller! We’ve missed you so!
Logic may fly out the window often and coincidences pile up towards the end, but there’s something refreshing about witnessing uncomfortable relationship dynamics, something Lyne has spent his entire career exploring. Ana de Armas, who has impressed in Knives Out and No Time To Die, defines charisma, perfectly embodying a Lyne woman. Unapologetically sexual and refusing to ever be boring, she pushes all the right buttons and keeps you guessing as to her real motives right up to the strangely abrupt but oddly satisfying end. Affleck does a slow burn throughout (JUST LIKE THOSE SNAILS!) and looks either bored or committed. Frankly, I couldn’t tell, but that’s exactly the ambiguous reaction needed for his character.
It’s nice to see something new from Lyne, and this time without all that pesky smoke in every frame. While nowhere near as exciting, memorable, and suspenseful as Fatal Attraction, he still excels at giving us unraveling couples and S-E-X (!). Welcome back, Adrian Lyne. I don’t know how I lived and lusted without you!
By Glenn Gaylord, Senior Film Critic
Deep Water is now streaming on Hulu in the U.S. and on Amazon Prime internationally.
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