Review by Victoria Alexander
Sensational erotic thriller with de Armas commandeering the film. Lyne returns with more aggressive sexual display than his highly regarded “best films.” Grace Jenkins has a bathtub scene with Affleck and steals the movie from de Armas with a song.
I always watch UNFAITHFUL and FATAL ATTRACTION when they are on TV. Now, DEEP WATER ranks repeated viewing on Hulu.
Patricia Highsmith’s 1957 novel gives director Adrian Lyne a heightened sexual landscape to explore, now with much stronger psychological underpinnings.
In my opinion, Lyne’s sexual arena highlights “Dark Empaths” the newest psychological term being offered to join the pantheon of personality disorders known as “dark personality traits.” Dark personality traits include psychopathy, machiavellianism and narcissism. It’s called the “dark triad.” More recently, it has been suggested that sadism be added, culminating in a “dark tetrad.”
The study on “Dark Empaths” was published in Personality and Individual Differences, a peer-reviewed academic journal.
Vic (Ben Affleck) is a retired, very wealthy tech genius who made a computer chip for drones. It has an ambiguous military benefit. Vic spends his time obsessing over his gorgeous, sexually-adventurous wife Melinda (Ana de Armas), mountain biking and, for some creepy reason never explained, raising snails.
Apparently, Vic is one of those men who spend their marriage being cuckolded. It’s more common than you think. These husbands tolerate their wives openly and aggressively flirting with other men. If a husband picks other men for his wife to have sex with, watches, participates or just likes to know the details, it is colloquially called “hotwifing.”
Melinda flaunts her sexual deviant behavior in full view of their large social group. Her constant, public humiliation of Vic is showcased by having young, stud “boyfriends” on view at parties. Vic’s money and status makes him impervious to criticism. Everyone just goes along with Melinda’s callous sexual displays. His friends try their best to enlighten him to his wife’s adultery, but he dismisses the allegations.
You know this is Vic’s kink, since Melinda always looks to make sure he is watching her with her young men. It turns him on.
Melinda gives Vic a sexual adrenaline rush. She is a difficult, demanding woman and a big challenge. And Vic did not make his vast fortune without challenges. She is his wife challenge. Melinda delivers surprises, mystery and is never boring. She is more adventurous than mountain biking to nowhere. She is a lot of fun, always drinking, laughing and maybe she even strips at parties. Melinda is well aware of Vic’s addiction to her. Melinda is a lot to handle but she is playing the long con. She is the only thing that makes Vic hard.
It is clear that the marriage and their adored 6 year-old child Trixie (Grace Jenkins) were Vic’s idea and he has always had to put up with Melinda’s constant stream of young, hot “friends.” She displays them as trophies her marriage to Vic has provided her. Vic accepts her lies about not sleeping with these guys. It’s their sexual foreplay.
But is Affleck going to play a cuckolded husband in open view of his character’s social set? Vic’s friends seem resigned to accept what he has to put up with. Melinda’s last “friend” Martin MacRae, mysteriously disappeared and his new replacement, Josh (Brendan C. Miller), is soon leaving for New Mexico.
When Joel arrives at a party attended by Vic and Melinda, he thanks Vic for allowing Melinda to spend so much time with him. Vic mentions Melinda’s last friend. “I killed him,” Vic tells Josh. So here is Vic’s answer to tolerating the cuckold stigma. Vic is now dangerous and there might be more to his acceptance of these relationships. Is Vic a serial killer with a good reason?
Josh asks Vic if he is threatening him and soon the comment courses through the community. Seems reasonable to everyone that Vic was driven to kill. Even little Grace questions her father about killing her mother’s friend.
When the newest member of the social group, writer Don Wilson (Tracy Letts), is introduced to Vic he says, “Oh, you’re the guy who killed Martin MacRae.” Looking for source material for his next novel, Wilson starts looking at Vic as a possible killer.
When is Tracy Letts going to write another KILLER JOE?
Vic and Melinda have separate bedrooms and maybe, and this is a leap, the snails represent Vic. He explains that cooking snails is not a sudden decision, since they must be starved before they can be eaten. Does Melinda starve Vic of sex intentionally so that when intensively hungry with jealously, he can perform? Is Melinda a castrating praying mantis?
Melinda’s next boy toy is Charlie (Jacob Elordi) and this one really gets under Vic’s skin. At a pool party given by friends and attended by Vic and Melinda, Charlie drowns.
With Charlie gone, Melinda’s old friend Tony (Finn Wittrock) turns up. Coincidence or Melinda’s next sacrificial sex partner? Vic follows them and as per their unspoken pattern, Melinda invites Tony to meet Vic. At the house, Melinda announces to Vic that Tony was “the first American I fucked.”
Then Vic picks up Tony walking through town and they go for a ride into the isolated woods.
The screenplay is by Zach Helm and Sam Levinson. The tabloids covering of the very public romance between Affleck and de Armas certainly didn’t help the advance word on DEEP WATERS. Didn’t Affleck’s people remind him of the catastrophe of the 2002-2004 saga of Bennifer? Apparently movie romances by co-stars publicizes the sexual chemistry that will be on screen.
De Armas is so provocative that her sexual abandonment captivates DEEP WATERS. Affleck has the more difficult role, balancing Vic’s shame and depression with the masculine strength of determined revenge.
Regardless of the complaint that the plot is absurd (I watch 20/20 and Dateline, so the DEEP WATER scenario is entirely plausible), DEEP WATER is an adult film with overt sexual dynamism exhibited by a first class cast and an admired director. With superheroes being sexless and with morality as its capstone, why not enjoy rich people playing with infidelity and its consequences?
For a complete list of Victoria Alexander's movie reviews
on Rotten Tomatoes go to:
Member of Las Vegas Film Critics Society
Personal email: email@example.com