On the surface, Vic and Melinda, along with their daughter Trixie, are the perfect family. They are rich, handsome, and they hang out with lots of other people who are as rich and handsome as they are. Except that, for a while now, the relationship between the spouses has gone from stagnant to toxic: while he tortures her with his indifference, she torments him with a very public succession of lovers. Then, here that, during a party, Vic entrusts to the handsome man of the moment that he killed his predecessor…
Tense, this passage was first imagined in literature by the great Patricia Highsmith before being taken up in cinema by Michel Deville, and now by Adrian Lyne, who makes a return with Deep Water (Deep Waters) after two decades of absence.
For the record, we owe this English director a host of seminal films of the 1980s, such as Flashdance (Le feu de la danse), 9½ Weeks (9½ weeks) and Fatal Attraction (Fatal Liaison), which popularized the genre of erotic thriller . In this case, Deep Water summons the both aestheticizing and uninhibited lasciviousness of these productions. No, the filmmaker has lost none of his taste for stylized lighting combined with effects of smoke, rain or other mist.
Moreover, at the height of his fame, he was reproached until his formalism (like Alan Parker, Ridley Scott and Tony Scott, his compatriots and contemporaries who came like him from advertising), judging his cinema catchy and superficial . Whatever one thinks, the fact remains that Adrian Lyne has a signature which, at 81, remains perfectly identifiable. Respect.
What's more, Lyne has a flair for bringing together duos whose chemistry will set the screen ablaze: Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke, Glenn Close and Michael Douglas, and now Ana de Armas and Ben Affleck. Because, yes, the sexual tension-frustration between these two is close to boiling point.
Chabrol take 2
As in the novel, the film is quick to establish Vic's guilt. Rather, the interest lies in the sometimes happily twisted psychological interactions between Vic and Melinda. Although the most striking scene occurs between Vic and his daughter, a brilliant child who conducts an interrogation that is all the more chilling because it takes place in good-nature.
The film has, however, problems, starting with its many implausibilities, especially with regard to the murders. When the novel was published in 1957, forensics was not what it is now. However, as it is shown, the homicide by drowning would leave bruises allowing illico to conclude to a suspicious death, by way of example. With the profusion of detective series broadcast for 20, 30 years, the public has become less gullible. And there are a handful of too convenient coincidences not to wince.
Certain aspects would also have deserved to be dug, such as the fact that the fortune belongs to Vic and that he therefore holds the purse strings: a potential form of marital control which remains unexplored, the film dwelling rather on detail the sadomasochism at work, on both sides, in spouses — an approach favored in his time by Michel Deville as well.
About this first adaptation, it was of a beautiful minimalism, but with the absolute darkness of the dénouement imagined by Patricia Highsmith, Deville preferred an end as cynical as morally ambiguous. This was the most Chabrolian of his films, the said ending recalling that of The Unfaithful Woman (Claude Chabrol, 1969). In his version, Adrian Lyne, whose last film, Unfaithful (Infidèle), was incidentally a remake of The Unfaithful Wife, follows more the detail of the plot of Highsmith, but he takes on his account the end of the film of Deville.
In reality, what surprises the most in Deep Water is Ben Affleck. Like the novel, the film favors Vic's point of view, and the actor proves to be particularly convincing as a being whose outward stoicism hides a sociopathic nature. Perhaps Affleck sought advice from his old friend Matt Damon, who found one of his best roles in The Talented Mister Ripley, based on another Patricia Highsmith novel.
The author who, with also Strangers on a Train (The unknown of the North-Express), adapted by Alfred Hitchcock, obviously had a weakness for too calm killers. Don't we say that we should be wary of sleeping water?