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"Deep Water" Review

When it comes to directors who had a massive influence on the look and style of Eighties movies was Adrian Lyne. Specializing in wildly successful, erotically-charged, MTV-ready stories and visuals (i.e. so much atmospheric haze that you wondered why OSHA didn't shut the productions down), he made between 1983 and 1993 Flashdance, 9-1/2 Weeks, Fatal Attraction, Jacob's Ladder, and Indecent Proposal. His last film was 2002's equally sweaty Unfaithful which reinvigorated Diane Lane's career as a sexy older woman though she was only 36(!) at the time. (That's an older woman?!?) 

Now at the age of 81, Lyne is back with another steamy erotic thriller, the Hulu Original (meaning it's being dumped there after numerous delays from its original November 2020 theatrical release due to Hot Fad Plague) Deep Water starring Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas as, well, here's the IMDB blurb: A well-to-do husband who allows his wife to have affairs in order to avoid a divorce becomes a prime suspect in the disappearance of her lovers. That's more than we knew going into our viewing of it and barely captures just how weird and ultimately stupid the story is.

 For the first 45 minutes or so we were wondering what the actual what was going on. Affleck is a wealthy retired tech guy who "invented a chip used in military drones" who spends his days riding his mountain bike around his small Louisiana town and tending to his snail collection in the basement. He's married to de Armas and they have one of those trademark borderline annoying moppet daughters (think Fatal Attraction) who keeps having Alexa play "Old MacDonald" to the parents annoyance. 

She seems to be flaunting affairs with younger lovers openly in front of their friends at the lavish day-drinking parties they have and while Affleck passive-aggressively menaces them, casually mentioning that he may've murdered a missing man, some take the hint and others don't. But then for all of her hanky-panky, they're having rough cinematic sex, but also seems to be sleeping separately. It's all disorienting and we kept wondering when things would make sense.

 When one of her lovers ends up drowned in the swimming pool at one of these party's, she accuses him to the cops, but evidence is scant; everyone was drunk and it could've been accidentally. However, a writer friend of theirs begins to investigate, sniffing a new book idea while catching a killer. As silly and implausible as this tale from a weird alternate universe where such antics aren't that scandalous for some reason is, everything goes off the rails in the last act where there simply isn't a crane strong enough to suspend disbelief sufficiently to not laugh at it.

The core failing of Deep Water is that we never understand why this couple simply doesn't get divorced. Yes, they have a young child who seems clued into the whispers about daddy, but how is staying together in a broken marriage where alcoholic mommy is bringing boyfriends home for dinner (when she comes home at all) doing the kid any favors? While da Armas is hot, it's not like Affleck is Danny DeVito and incapable of finding a less cheaty companion considering he's rich and looks like Batman. None of their friends seem to disapprove very much beyond sympathy for his being inexplicably bound to her? 

And what's with all the snails? For all the scenes and allusions to the snails and how they must be prepared for eating lest they be toxic, nothing comes of it and one final detail is so ridiculously stupid that viewing Deep Water as even camp trash became untenable. It's as if no one bothered to read the last 15 pages of the script and noticed that it was underthought. Based on a 1957 novel by Patricia Highsmith, who wrote Strangers on a Train and the Thomas Ripley books which have had many adaptations, perhaps their unwillingness to divorce is of its time, but simply doesn't work in a contemporary setting.

What's most disappointing about Deep Water is that despite our culture having become ever more pornographic and sexually depraved since Lyne's Reagan era heyday, it doesn't bother to take advantage of it to really push boundaries to explore what their toxic relationship entails. For all the rampant sex on HBO shows like Euphoria, movies these days are gripped by a neo-Puritan timidity which precludes getting really crazy with the cuckoldry. 

Score: 4/10. Skip it. 


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