Unfaithful

2002, Movie, R, 123 mins

Review

UNFAITHFUL
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An apparently happy marriage is shattered when the wife has an impulsive affair. Connie (Diane Lane) and Edward Sumner (Richard Gere) seem to have an enviable life. They have a son, Charlie (Erik Per Sullivan), and a beautiful suburban home near New York City, where Edward owns his own business (home security, one of the movie's many less-subtle-than-they're-meant-to-be touches). Their approaching middle age is cushioned by financial security, good looks and quiet confidence in the strength of their marriage. And then Connie has a chance encounter on a SoHo street with a handsome, much younger French book dealer, Paul Martel (Olivier Martinez). A freak windstorm sweeps Connie off her feet and she collides with Paul, scattering her purchases — birthday party accessories for little Charlie — and scraping her knees bloody. Paul offers first aid and, though she resists his initial flirtatious advances, Connie is soon slipping off to his loft for steamy trysts. Meanwhile, Edward starts catching her in small lies about her whereabouts and hires a detective, who supplies Paul's address. An ill-considered confrontation ends when Edward spots a heavy glass snow globe he gave Connie (from Chicago, the windy city) in Paul's loft and cracks the young man's skull with it. Despite the extensive screen time devoted to the affair and Edward's growing realization of Connie's betrayal, the movie's real dramatic energy lies in what happens after Paul's murder, and that's also where the film goes quietly wrong. If ever a movie cried out to be French, it's this one, and not just because it's a remake of Claude Chabrol's notoriously icy LA FEMME INFIDELE (1968). Screenwriters Alvin Sargent and William Broyles Jr. and director Adrian Lyne seem to have conceived the film as being about the emotional repercussions of adultery, but the characters' actions (which speak louder than words) delineate a tale of the brutally expedient lengths to which a bourgeois couple will go to keep up appearances — not just external appearances, but their own internalized self-portraits. This fundamentally cold (and, yes, very French) conceit is muffled in fuzzy layers of (very American) soul-baring, and yet the film's most devastating image is of Paul's body, wrapped in a carpet and half-buried in a trash-filled dump. He's reduced to the unsightly mess that had to be swept off the manicured surface of the Sumners' life, a cruelty more piercing than the couple's tear-stained marital agonies. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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