Devastatingly Irresistible (Review)
If you've missed the moody brilliance
of a story told with a stolen glance or a telling smile, this
film is for you. Obviously bored by the tired scenarios of the
recklessly rich, Unfaithful's filmmakers set their sights
within the vulnerable heart of contemporary middle class America.
Connie and Edward have attained complacency in their marriage,
that place that lays beyond the restlessly selfish twenty something
years, beyond the career-family oriented thirty something years,
to that comfortable place of submissive acceptance of who they
are and how it is. In this generally unshakeable territory, the
American Dream still flourishes.
Connie Sumner (Diane Lane) isn't
looking for an affair when she collides with Paul Martel (Olivier
Martinez) on a windy street in Soho. Sure
he is youthful,
gorgeous to a distraction, and full of the promise of mystery
that comes with a French accent, but it takes more than the obvious
to shake her from the warm and fuzzy fortress that surrounds
her. That element of sexual chemistry is more easily recognized
on film these days than in real life. So effectively has she
repressed the feeling, she has no idea the influence it has on
the seemingly innocent choices she makes that morning.
Diane Lane has explored this
character before in the more liberal and distant terrain of the
Woodstock era (A Walk on the Moon), but her portrayal
of Connie vibrates with a tangible display of visible emotion.
Lane explains, "
We go through changes, and you don't
always realize that until something sparks you to see yourself
in a different light. That's what makes Connie vulnerable."
In the brilliant centerpiece of the film, we share Connie's first
experience with infidelity on her way home. Through her intensely
visible reactions to the flood of memories shown as flashbacks,
Lane literally writes Connie's story across her face in an exhilarating
and sometimes unsettlingly realistic performance.
Connie's husband, Edward Sumner
(Richard Gere), moves through his days with the predictable assurance
that affords his family and business a stability easily taken
for granted. Early on, he discovered the simple comforts of a
life filled with simple pleasures and managed to avoid the complexities
that come with pursuing a life filled with passion. When his
world is shaken with the reality of Connie's affair, he is not
in the least prepared to cope with the extreme emotions that
bombard him. He reacts impulsively and, like Connie, first experiences
the brunt of his actions in the aftermath.
To say this role is a departure
for Richard Gere is beyond a simplification. In his long and
memorable filmography, Gere's characters have always reflected
a sense of passionate elegance, a handsome style we've come to
expect. His successful departure from this stereotype in this
role provides the perfect element of dimension to a character
we might otherwise overlook. Gere's attraction to the role was
immediate, "It was a very textured, very intimate script
that was not only interesting, but disturbing to me
Disturbing indeed, his portrayal of Edwards' escalation toward
temporary insanity might well go down as one of the most terrifyingly
believable moments in the history of film.
Paul's (Olivier Martinez) life
is a reflection of his youth; open to all possibilities and hungry
to experience all it has to offer. He is a natural charmer with
the looks and endearing sense of humor to attract life irresistibly
to his door
all he has to do is invite it in. In his cluttered
SoHo loft, he surrounds himself with stacks of half pursued interests
where the potential for failure is avoided by the unfinished
process. There is a sense that one day he will get to it, one
day it will all come together, after all he has his whole life
ahead of him. Then one day, Connie stumbles into his life. True
to character, he does not hesitate to invite her in.
has stirred the passions of the French since his first film roles
in the early 1990s. He won a Cesar Award in 1994 for his role
in Bertrand Blier's drama 1,2,3, Soliel opposite Marcello
Mastronianni. He first gained international attention in The
Horseman on the Roof, a French production based on Gene Giono's
beloved novels telling the adventures of Angelo, a dashing 19th
Century cavalry officer who falls in love with a married woman,
played by Juliette Binoche. While Unfaithful promises
to finally make his presence known this side of the pond, it
should be noted that Olivier's character is as much a departure
from his persona as Richard is from Edward. Unprepared for fame
brought on by his role as Angelo and the media attention surrounding
a real life romance with his leading lady, the shy young actor
did what a few other European actors have done in recent years,
stepped back to contemplate his future.
As for Martinez' vision of Paul: "For me, Paul is an innocent.
He doesn't know what is going to happen and he has no control
over his future. I was very interested by this angle of the character.
He's like a child; he's free ... too free." His portrayal
of Paul in Unfaithful is a bit more guarded and mature
than the mesmerizing Angelo that Martinez created in the youthful
innocence of his acting career, but the moments when the camera
captures the exquisite charisma of his body language are more
than worth the wait. Catch just one stolen glance and you'll
know why Connie made the choices she did and Lyne believed Martinez
could hold his own with Richard Gere.
Adrian Lyne's Unfaithful
is a seductive journey into the seemingly insignificant choices
we make in daily life and the weight of their consequences. The
depth of character development, shadowed by the impossibility
of placing blame, leaves the viewer's sense of values shaken,
or perhaps at the very least, questioning values rationally conjectured
through the changing morals of today's society. It will leave
you reflecting on a great many things in your life ... on what
you've done and what you didn't do.
A Fox 2000 Pictures & Regency
Photographs courtesy Fox Pictures