Film Review: Unfaithful
Diane Lane carries what could have been a great piece of cinema...
The publicity blurb for ?Unfaithful? gives equal star billing to Richard Gere
and Diane Lane. However this Adrian Lyne movie, which bears not a passing
resemblance to ?Fatal Attraction? is a remake of ?la femme infidele ?, and is
most definitely Diane Lane's gig. She is the central character around which all
of the action happens and is the best thing about ?Unfaithful?. She represents
an inspired piece of casting - Lane is gorgeous in much the same way as Helen
Hunt, these ladies both glow on screen but unconsciously convey emotional depth
coloured by a sense of loss and yearning. It's as well for ?Unfaithful? that
Lane is so gifted.
?Unfaithful? tells the story of how Connie Sumner, a bored housewife, has an affair with a young Frenchman called Paul Martel played by Olivier Martinez. Questions have been asked about the plausibility of a woman like Connie embarking on such an affair. Look at the facts: poor Connie is holed up in a showpiece mansion on the shores of a picturesque lake; her young son Charlie, dreadfully overplayed by Erik Par Sullivan, is a gooey cutesy little Hollywood sprog; she's weighed down by a sterile domestic regime similar to that endured by Jim Carrey in ?Truman Show?; and finally she has to bear the cross that is Edward, her inanimate object of a husband played by Richard Gere. Gere has never been able to convey any sense of inner conflict and his career ? and sex symbol status - has been a source of amazement to me. This man has dined out on three acting expressions: there's the clenched jaw, the twitching lips and far away look, which denotes a kind of anxious uneasiness; there's the windswept smile; and finally there's the tears - there'll always be the tears.
Connie bumps into her French lover one windswept day in New York. It says a lot of Hollywood's view of the outside world that Martinez? portrayal of the Gallic lover, with his studied amorality and the chain-smoked Gitanes, is as clich? as Tom Cruise's awful attempt at Paddwhackery in the risible ?Far and Away?. Lane is superb in playing out Connie's initial attraction to the Gallic charmer, she creditably conveys the longing, the primal urges, and the conflict between being a down at heel housewife one minute and a voracious sex kitten the next.
Mainstream Hollywood loves portraying sex and selling carnality but since Hollywood's inception its intentions are always governed and indeed stifled by a very prim and self regarding moral code. Midway through ?Unfaithful? there is loads of sex - they're at it in the mens? room, in the cinema, in the hallway, and the odd piece of dialogue gets thrown in during afterglow moments. However before we (or Connie) get too hung up on the joys of illicit sex the warning signals are writ large - one of Constance's friends tells her in the most priggish way that she herself had an affair and that it was the one thing in her life she regretted. True to form, the clouds begin to gather, Gere wakes up from his catatonic state and hires a gumshoe to confirm his worst fears, Connie begins to struggle, and I don't need to tell you how it all ends. Let's just say that that one of the worst features of ?Unfaithful ? is the way in which a very muscular and frankly rather chilling Moral Imperative carries the day.
As the story resolves itself the pace slows to a tortuous trickle. Gere eats the furniture, young Charlie tearfully wonders what's happening with mom?n?pop, but Lane, despite the mawkishness of the script, continues to excel in every way, right up to the will they / won't they last frame. "Unfaithful? could have been a great movie - Diane Lane gave it everything and deserves so much better. So do we.