Saturday 14 May 2022

Movie Review: Deep Water (2022)

An erotic crime drama, Deep Water is a decent throwback to stories mixing sex, mystery, and malevolence. 

In Louisiana, wealthy and retired chip designer Vic Van Allen (Ben Affleck) is married to Melinda (Ana de Armas), and they have a young daughter Trixie. Although he loves his wife, Vic does not easily display his emotions. In contrast, Melinda is passionate, demands constant affection, and works overtime to make her husband jealous by publicly flirting with other men.

Vic hints darkly that he murdered one of Melinda's former lovers. Her current close friend Joel, a musician, senses the threat and leaves town. Melinda's next man-on-the-side is piano teacher Charlie. When he drowns in a swimming pool incident, suspicions swirl around Vic, and aspiring crime author Don Wilson (Tracy Letts) starts poking around Vic's life. But Melinda is not yet done with new liaisons, leading to more turmoil.

After a twenty year absence since Unfaithful, Adrian Lyne returns to directing duties. Deep Water is familiar terrain for a director always interested in the intersection - but not full overlap - of sex, jealousy, and love. Writers Zach Helm and Sam Levinson adapt the Patricia Highsmith novel with emphasis on churning emotions beneath a staid surface, and the film draws power from the slow reveal of a unique relationship surviving on dysfunctionality.

The film does spend plenty of time in the same emotional space, but is modestly enjoyable on its own terms, including accepting the fundamentals of the Van Allen marriage. His analytically cold demeanour collides with her over-expressive nymphomania, but these opposites do attract. They knowingly push the necessary buttons to generate sparks, whether through anger or arousal. Observing a relationship seeking balance on an unconventional edge is one of the narrative strengths.

The murder and mystery elements are handled with less elegance, and exist in a suspect world of limited scrutiny. Four men related to Vic and Melinda meet a foul end; only once does Lyne bother to show investigators doing their jobs. In one of the weaker elements, it is left to aspiring author Don Wilson to instigate ineffective amateur sleuthing.

Ben Affleck is a perfect fit for the bottled-up Vic, and that's just fine because Ana de Armas generates enough wanton lust for the both of them. In an unremarkable secondary cast, all her would-be lovers are too generic to register, and they appear in her life like men falling off an assembly plant conveyor belt.

Deep Water does not reinvent the erotic mystery thriller, but rather welcomes it back with a seductive massage.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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