“Ben Affleck is to good acting what a cooked pickle is to haute cuisine.” It’s hard not to recall this joke by Spanish movie critic Antonio Gasset when watching the American actor and his deer-in-the-headlights expression in Deep Water.
The film, which stars Affleck alongside Cuban-American actress Ana de Armas, is directed by British director Adrian Lyne, 81, the man behind some of the most toxic and ridiculous blockbuster films of the 1980s and 1990s. From Fatal Attraction to Indecent Proposal or Nine and a Half Weeks, all of Lyne’s movies are based on the tired formula of “sex sells.” In these films, Hollywood stars play rich, boring and often cringe-worthy characters – serving more as adornments in pseudo-erotic plots. Two decades after Unfaithful, in which Lyne presents his moralizing vision of adultery, the director returns to the same tacky universe, where undaunted men fall in the throes of supposed femme fatales dressed in fine lingerie.
Deep Water is based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel by the same name and was adapted by French director Michel Deville in the 1980s with actors Isabelle Huppert and Jean-Louis Trintignant in the lead roles. The movie focuses on a married couple in an open relationship riddled with tension. It’s the kind of couple that may have existed in the backward bourgeoise of yesteryear, but who are completely implausible today.
Ana de Armas plays a young wife and mother who doesn’t like being either. To entertain herself, in addition to drinking the water out of the vases, she cheats on her husband with every young man who crosses her path. The couple sleeps in separate beds and the husband, who neither works nor needs to after inventing a drone that made him a millionaire, doesn’t seem to mind his wife’s dalliances. But she is annoyed by both her husband and their daughter. So why do they stay together? This is just one issue in a long list of questions and inconsistencies that are left unaddressed. But, in the end, it is almost better not to know.
Lyne tries to turn jealousy into an aphrodisiac elixir, and maybe that makes some sense for an 81-year-old man who found success in a cinematic genre that today is just fatuous, out-of-date and toxic.