Unfaithful

Even the family dog shoots Diane Lane accusing looks in Unfaithful, a somber drama of marital infidelity adapted from a Claude Chabrol film and wrapped in the velveteen packaging of director Adrian Lyne. Having seemingly exhausted every other hot-button issue—from marital prostitution in Indecent Proposal to poetic pedophilia in Lolita—Lyne has circled back on himself. Cross-pollinating the adultery of Fatal Attraction with the steamy-sex-with-a-handsome-stranger of 9 1/2 Weeks, Unfaithful casts Lane as a suburban New York homemaker who, during a fateful trip to the city, chances upon French-accented ex-boxer and antique-book dealer Olivier Martinez. After a trip to Martinez's sunlight-soaked apartment to administer first aid to Lane's wounded knee turns flirtatious, Lane quickly retreats to her straight-arrow husband (Richard Gere) and child (Malcolm In The Middle's elfin Erik Per Sullivan). The lure of a big-city tryst eventually gets the better of her, however, and she surrenders to Martinez's advances with the intention of never letting the affair get out of hand. "They always end disastrously," friend Kate Burton says of extramarital affairs, over a lunch interrupted when Lane leaves the table for some hasty bathroom sex. The line underlines and adds exclamation marks to the film's already prominent foreshadowing. Unfaithful is trashy enough to envelop its sex scenes in aerobicized glamour (a Lyne trademark), so the fact that it takes itself so seriously almost counts as a daring move. Every once in a while, the dare pays off, particularly in a final act that shifts the relationships of all involved, as Gere grows more suspicious of his wife and more aggressive in his attempt to uncover the truth. For a couple of long stretches, Lyne drops the dialogue, letting images alone tell the story; as a director, he always seems more comfortable with images than words anyway. When he leaves his characters silent, the film conveys some of the moral ambiguity of infidelity and other rash choices, the way instinct can outweigh the threat of discovery and regret. But when they speak, it's always in the simpler tones of guilt and moral indignation. Ultimately, Unfaithful belongs to that simpler universe.

More DVD Review