UNFAITHFUL
Director: Adrian Lyne
***

Although 60-year-old Adrian Lyne is English and lives in the south of France, all of the eight films he has made since 1980 have been made in the States and most of them deal with sexual obsession and adultery of some sort. Lyne started his career making flashy commercials and this sort of slickness characterises his films.

Lyne directed 9 1/2 Weeks (1986), Fatal Attraction (1987), Indecent Proposal (1993), Lolita (1997) and now, Unfaithful, a film loosely based on the Chabrol classic, La Femme Infid? (1969). Unfortunately for the film-going public, Lyne is an avowed fan of French New Wave directors such as Chabrol and obviously considers himself a worthy successor to the films they so brilliantly directed. Unfaithful is the flipside to Fatal Attraction. That is, where Lyne had previously explored a husband cheating on a wife in Fatal Attraction, he now explores a wife cheating on a husband in Unfaithful. The problem is, Lyne has repeatedly shown himself to have no subtle feeling for sensuality and Unfaithful is thus reduced to a glossy morality tale that is the film equivalent of reading a romance novel. Therefore, fans of La Femme Infid? will be appalled. Where Chabrol was restrained, not showing the adulterers together, Lyne goes way over the top, drawing out the sex scenes to titillate the audience so he can remonstrate with them later.

Lyne is completely right-wing in his morals. There can be no redemption for a woman who strays, she will bring disaster on her whole family and so it comes to pass in Unfaithful. Lyne also sets up the premise that the affair between the Diane Lane character and the Olivier Martinez character takes place in a shabby SoHo flat, in contrast to the clean, suburban, middleclass American chic of the family home.

The one redeeming feature of the film is Diane Lane’s performance as the cheating wife. The underrated Lane, last seen in the dreadful Hardball, has been acting for more than 20 years since she made her feature debut as a 12-year-old with Laurence Olivier in A Little Romance (1979). She is outstanding and convincing in her sophisticated performance as a woman exploring her sexual needs. Lane must have worked against Lyne’s direction as Lyne is not known for his ability to portray what women want. Of course, any American woman would naturally be entrapped by a handsome, cute Frenchman, played here by the quintessential gigolo, Olivier Martinez, who, in between playing shallow studs, appeared opposite Javier Bardem in Before Night Falls. Richard Gere, though adequate, never convinces as the husband and looks awkward most of the time.

Unfaithful has a very uneven feel to it as well. First we have an adulterous affair, then we have a murder mystery and then a truly tacky ending. See the film if only for Diane Lane’s sexy performance, the very stud-like Olivier Martinez and Peter Biziou’s outstanding cinematography.

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