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Review: Unfaithful (2002)

Directed by: Adrian Lyne | 124 minutes | drama, thriller, romance | Diane Lane, Erik Per Sullivan, Richard Gere, Olivier Martinez, Myra Lucretia Taylor, Michelle Monaghan, Chad Lowe, Joseph Badalucco Jr., Erich Anderson, Damon Gupton, Kate Burton, Margaret Colin, Marc Forget, Larry Gleason, Dominic Chianese, Zeljko Ivanek,

Remake of Claude Chabrol’s French film ‘La femme infidèle’, in which Diane Lane, as Connie, the adulteress in question, is unfaithful to her loving husband Edward (Richard Gere) by starting a passionate affair with French bookseller Paul (Oliver Martinez ). The starts off strong and holds attention for a long time like a well-acted relational drama. If elements are added to the story, the loses some of its power. Nevertheless, the film makes you think, especially with the ambiguous ending, what you would do yourself in such a situation. Incidentally, Chabrols will be original, which he in turn based on ‘Madame Bovary’ regards as the better version.

What director does very well with ‘Unfaithful’ in any case, is to keep his distance from his characters. For most of the movie, that method works very well. He records what happens, but omits crucial details so that they can be filled in by the audience themselves. Why does Connie fall for Paul’s sleek charms so easily? The glimpses Lyne allows the viewer to capture of Edward and Connie’s domestic life do not motivate Connie’s behavior. They seem very happy and treat each other with love. Is it a bit of a sleepy life in the leafy sleeping cities around bustling New York? Connie looking for thrills? Adventure? Is she really in love with Paul? You can imagine everything and nothing about it.

It takes some getting used to seeing Richard Gere as a somewhat clumsy husband, who puts his sweater on the wrong way or wears two different shoes, while he has played his share of smooth-talking seducers. Gere plays Edward as a vulnerable softie who – when he gets suspicions about Connie’s dates in Manhattan and SoHo – investigates himself. It is recognizable and credible and it is not difficult to identify with him, although he mainly has a supporting role in the beginning. Lane stars as the mother of adorable Charlie (Erik Per Sullivan), who wants to feel like a desirable woman again. She portrays Connie’s complex emotions in a penetrating way – the train journey after her first lovemaking with Paul is a sample of all her feelings – although she seems to give herself more and more to her intoxication. She gets sloppy and shows herself in public with Paul. Doesn’t she care anymore? Does she hope she gets caught? It remains uncertain and therefore interesting to speculate about.

Unfortunately, Martinez is the weakest link in the love triangle. As a young “toyboy” he is undoubtedly physically attractive to Connie. Martinez expresses herself in English with difficulty – and not in a charming, oh what a funny foreigner, way – and doesn’t come across as convincing as a rare book dealer and art connoisseur. His motivation seems to be mostly lust, but where the question marks in the relationship between Connie and Edward are fascinating, Paul has no references at all. He’s just there, always at home in a huge apartment, and he acts like a Frenchman in a Hollywood movie: an unreliable charmer. He just barely smokes Gauloises with a baguette under his arm, but it doesn’t make much difference.

Fortunately, the makers avoid the clichés when the takes an unexpected turn towards the genre. It then becomes more of a game of cat and mouse between Connie and Edward, when they are finally forced to confront each other about the adultery and everything that comes out of it. There is a lot hidden under the surface, it turns out.

Then the previous lack of interpretation will break up the anyway. Too many puzzle pieces remain. In any case, ‘Unfaithful’ is very clear about one thing: an extramarital affair is a bad idea. Especially with a Frenchman.

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