Unfaithful (2002) dir. Adrian Lyne
Starring: Diane Lane, Richard Gere, Olivier Martinez
Few people talk about Adrian Lyne. He reminds me of Peter Weir, a talented and picky director with a slim but memorable output of films. Since the 80’s he’s only made 4 films, and in his later years it’s been at least five years between films: "Indecent Proposal" (1993), "Lolita" (1997), "Unfaithful" (2002).
In this, his latest (yes, he hasn't made a film since 2002), Diane Lane and Richard Gere play Connie and Ed Sumner, seemingly stabile, middle class parents living in the New York suburbs. One day while in Manhattan during a windstorm Connie's knocked off her feet injuring her leg. She is helped by a kindly and impossible handsome Frenchman Paul Martel (Olivier Martinez). Paul’s European charm is intoxicating to Connie and slowly she begins to see more of him until they blossom into a full-fledged affair.
Ed suspects something’s up and starts snooping around. Connie’s conscience starts eating away at her but before she decides to call it off Ed finds her out, which results in a violent confrontation. Lies compound upon other lies the effect of which will test Connie and Ed’s commitment to each other.
Lyne's jumping off point is Claude Charbol’s 1969 thriller, "La Femme infidèle". Not having seen that film I can’t compare the two, but interviews with Lyne suggest it serves more as inspiration than a remake.
Lyne definitely makes “Unfaithful” his own - a deceptively clever spin on his 1986 classic “Fatal Attraction” (click HERE for that review). Both films are simple in plot, pulling suspense from three-way character dilemmas. In “Fatal Attraction” of course it’s the father character that is seduced and has to reconcile his actions with his family. Connie’s situation is much different though. Her conflict is internal. She desires to stop but is addicted to the Paul’s youth, exoticness and sensuality. Richard Gere as ‘the other man’ is against type and his character is deepened more Anne Archer’s other woman character. The third act twists the point of view sharply to Richard Gere. Ed’s actions and lies add a tense Hitchcockian edge which contrasts the soft and romantic beginnings.
Lyne smothers the film with a familiar 1980's soft look. It was a style common to all those British commercial directors in the 80's - Ridley Scott, Alan Parker, Tony Scott. Long lenses, smoke-filled interiors and lush backlighting create an almost fantasy-like look and feel. It works for “Unfaithful”, because Lyne closes off most of the outside world to his characters. Only in the end do the police come into the picture, but even then the decisions made by the characters are internal choices not induced by outside forces.
Lyne still hasn’t made a film since “Unfaithful” and so we just have to wait patiently for him to be inspired and surprise us once again. Enjoy.
“Unfaithful” is available on Blu-Ray from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment