I said it in my review of the Affair Gone Bad movie “Happy End”, and I’ll say it again here: In this day and age, only a fool would have an affair. Remade from a French film called “La Femme Infidele”, and directed by Adrian Lyne, the man who introduced the phrase “fatal attraction” as the most effective means of steering away from adultery for men everywhere, “Unfaithful” is a straightforward Affair Gone Bad movie, and it ends exactly the way you thought it would — badly for all involved.
And so, let me break down the simple plot of “Unfaithful”: After an accidental meeting, Connie Sumner (Diane Lane) begins an affair with young Frenchman Paul (Olivier Martinez). The affair begins hot and heavy and ends in misery and violence when Connie’s husband Edward (Richard Gere) discovers the affair, and on the spur of the moment, goes to introduce himself to the much younger Paul. As expected, things go bad. Very bad.
I am not at all concern about spoiling any surprise plot twist, because the film’s trailers have already done it for me. Remember that scene where Diane Lane’s character asks her husband, who has just discovered his wife’s affair, in the most anxious and fearful voice, “What have you done?” That scene spoils whatever twist “Unfaithful” planned to spring on its audience. You knew it was coming — and it did.
The screenplay by Alvin Sargent and William Broyles Jr., based on the 1969 French original, is very unflattering to its characters. The movie makes very few attempts to convince us that Diane Lane’s Connie needs the affair; the truth is she doesn’t. As a female friend jokes to Connie, having an affair should be considered like taking a pottery class — just something fun to try out. This, it seems, is exactly how Connie is approaching the affair. It’s something she’s never tried, and the idea, and the follow-through, of the affair turns her on even more than the actual affair itself. Is she in love with Paul? No, not really. But she is in love with having the affair.
By the same token, Olivier Martinez’s suave Frenchman Paul is not anywhere close to being our hero. This guy is a player, the kind of man that probably has two or three women lined up to take Connie’s place as soon as she ends the affair. Paul isn’t in love; he’s already working another target in-between his afternoon sessions with Connie. This is the kind of guy you don’t want for a best friend, because chances are he’ll steal your girlfriend away just to prove that he can. Paul is a punk, but one blessed with good looks and an easy rapport with women.
As the wronged husband, Richard Gere’s Edward has the potential to be the film’s most sympathetic character. Much like the wronged husband in the South Korean Affair Gone Bad movie “Happy End” (which, incidentally, also broadcasted its “twist” with its movie poster), Edward has our sympathies until the very moment he makes a fateful decision to deal with his perpetrators in a most brutal fashion. It’s interesting to note that perhaps just 15 years ago ex-hunk Richard Gere would probably be playing the Paul role. Gere’s performance is very good, reminding me that the guy is a very good actor despite some bad roles in recent years.
Lane’s much ballyhooed performance (especially during the 2003 Awards season) is certainly worthy of recognition, and it’s quite brave of Lane to play a woman who, as the film goes on, becomes less and less likeable. Most actors would have demanded that the screenplay be stacked in their favor; not so here. Lane’s Connie is not a victim to anything but her own indiscretion; she has everything a woman could want, but the opportunity to indulge in an affair trumps everything.
“Unfaithful” is certainly a good entry into the familiar Affair Gone Bad subgenre. The film benefits most from its 3 main cast, and Adrian Lyne’s direction is assured, managing to be very erotic without showing very much skin. Lane is still one of the sexiest actresses working today, and personally, it’s nice to see her (finally) get so much recognition.
Adrian Lyne (director) / Claude Chabrol, Alvin Sargent, William Broyles Jr. (screenplay)
CAST: Diane Lane …. Connie Sumner
Erik Per Sullivan …. Charlie Sumner
Richard Gere …. Edward Sumner
Olivier Martinez …. Paul Martel