2002 - R - 124 Mins.
|Director: Adrian Lynne|
|Producer: G. Mac Brown & Adrian Lynne|
|Written By: William Broyles Jr. & Alvin Sargent|
|Starring: Richard Gere, Diane Lane, Olivier Martinez, Erik Per Sullivan, Chad Lowe |
|Review by: John Ulmer
What would you do if you found out that your spouse was having an affair outside of your marriage? Most likely what most people do when it happens to them -- go to marriage counseling or seek a nasty divorce. Edward (Richard Gere) does something different: he kills the man his wife is seeing and tries to cover up the crime. It is, in a way, the perfect murder -- no one else knew about the affair his wife was having, no evidence traced the victim to his killer. At least that is what Edward thinks as he rushes to attend his son's school play.
One of the rare scenes in the film where Diane Lane has her clothes on.
Soon the irony starts and the tension builds. Edward gave his wife, Connie (Diane Lane), a snow globe as a present. She then gave it to her lover (Olivier Martinez). And when Edward finally confronts his wife's newfound boy toy prior to the killing, he sees the globe sitting near his bed. "Where did you get this?" he asks, before delivering a massive blow to the side of his enemy's face and inadvertently killing him with the glass ball.
It's an accident. He didn't mean to kill the man and he didn't even mean to overreact. But as the reality of the affair bombards his senses, Edward literally collapses, sent into a spiraling downfall of vengeance and anger.
It's Richard Gere's best performance -- ever. I'm not a fan of Gere, but he brings so much raw intensity and reality to his character here that it's hard to not realize his performance as one of the best of the decade thus far. Observe his facial features as he examines the bedroom of his wife's lover. Imagine yourself in his place and imagine yourself not reacting the exact same way.
But Gere is also able to bring a touching sense of love and humanity to Edward. His affection for his wife is as clear as sparkling water, and the day she comes home after encountering her new boyfriend he suspects something is wrong. Watch Gere in this film and you'll soon find yourself reconsidering whether or not he's that bad of an actor. I know I did. And you actually empathize with him. This is the man whose films have made more money the more he has become naked on-screen; the man who is renowned for being a playboy hotshot and a sleazy celebrity pretty boy. But yet in "Unfaithful," Gere abandons this self-made image, and plays a meek, nerdy family man living a modest life with a wife and a son. He wears glasses, lives an ordinary wife and actually respects his wife. His performance is spot-on and heartfelt, to say the least. I could have imagined almost anyone playing this role, except Gere. His performance is amazing.
After killing Martinez and dumping the body in the back of his car, Edward takes the snow globe home. He places it on a shelf behind many other souvenir globes. Imagine Connie's surprise when she sees it there, and imagine the irony in the situation: they both know that they know each other's secret. Yet since they both are shameful of what they are done, they are too scared to confront each other, for fear of being accused of their own crimes.
"Unfaithful" is one of the most elegant and firmly constructed thrillers in years -- realistic, cruel, ironic, and irreverently erotic. It's not your standard-issue sleaze. It's not all heavy on sex and style like "Basic Instinct" and it's not pure stupidity, either. It's actually a thriller rooted in a touching story of marriage and faith, and everything else gradually follows thereafter.
Like "A Simple Plan," "Bound" and "Fargo," "Unfaithful" is about one single event that suddenly causes a chain reaction of horrific ones. In "A Simple Plan," the moment that Hank took the cash was the moment his life changed forever. The moment that Corky's plan proceeded forwards in "Bound" was the moment that all hell broke loose and everything went wrong. And the moment that Jerry Lundegaard sent those two bumbling idiots on their way to kidnap his wife and hold her ransom was the same moment in time that his life would begin to dramatically fall apart, almost overnight. And the moment that Edward strikes his wife's lover with a small glass snowball is the moment that both of their wives -- his own and his wife's -- change forever. I love these sorts of movies, the kind that take your average, innocent passersby and place them in an unfortunate chain reaction that leads to a major downfall in their lives. Why do I love these movies? I think for the same reason that has made them all so successful: we love to watch characters corrupt themselves and get caught in conspiracies where they are literally fighting to stay above water. The scene in "Fargo" where Jerry's plan falls apart all at once is a great example of this.
This is Adrian Lynne's crowning achievement. It's glossy and masterfully, beautifully constructed. It's eerie and realistic and has a noticeably strong, yet strangely subtle, presence. I cannot imagine a more effective, sensitive and touching adaptation of this story that will surely hit close to home for many people out there. Even if it's not relative to your life, you will still find yourself deeply absorbed by the lead characters and their turmoil. "Unfaithful" has its flaws, but I find it hard to think of a more effective and beautiful thriller of its genre made within the past five years.