Unfaithful (2002)

(On TV, December 2016) I probably shouldn’t have watched Fatal Attraction a few days before Unfaithful, because the comparison isn’t kind to this film (even despite them sharing the same director). In some ways, this gender-flipped story of adultery does uphold some old-fashioned morals of deception and revenge. Alas, it does so at length, never settling for a quick cut when a long sustained shot will do. Diane Lane is rather good as the married woman deciding to indulge in a bit of adultery, and the casting of the two male actors is amusing: Choosing a side of Olivier Martinez over a main course of Richard Gere is the kind of thing that underscores the wish fulfillment of Hollywood movies. There is, as is usual for erotic thrillers, a bit of heat in the initial couplings … although this quickly cools down once the erotic part is done and the thriller part begins. By the time the husband character semi-accidentally kills the adulterer, the plot has simultaneously started and ended at once: the rest of the movie is guilty thumb-twiddling until the end. It doesn’t make for a satisfying film—there’s little to offset the unintentional hilarity of some sequences. It’s also far too long for its thin plot, but so it goes. There may be a clash between Unfaithful’s aspirations as an infidelity drama, and the way it veers into a murder thriller in its third act—the finale kills the questions left by its first act, which itself is far too slow for a thriller. No matter what or why, Unfaithful doesn’t make much of a case for itself—it’s not that bad a choice if you really, really like either or all of the three leads, but it doesn’t quite cohere into something satisfying.

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