March 21, 2022
Rated ‘R’ for sexual content, nudity, language and some violence.
Stars Ben Affleck, Ana de Armas, Tracy Letts, Grace Jenkins, Rachel Blanchard, Kristen Connolly, Jacob Elordi, Lil Rel Howery, Brendan Miller, Finn Wittrock.
Adrian Lyne’s first directorial effort since 2002’s Unfaithful follows a similar tact as his previous film in adapting the 1957 novel Deep Water.
Aside from some erotic overtones and major changes to the ending, Lyne’s Deep Water is mostly faithful to the primary story points from the book. Vic and Melinda Van Allen (Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas) are a couple in a small rural town who seem to have an open marriage, in that she has a number of close friendships with other men that all their friends assume are her lovers. The book is a bit more explicit to this point, that they have an arrangement that allows her to step out as long as they avoid a divorce for the sake of their daughter.
However, Melinda’s constant flaunting of her sexuality in front of other men is actually causing Vic to seethe inside, and he scares off one of her would-be love interests by claiming to have murdered her previous one. This gives him a bit of a reputation among town for a dark sense of humor, but intrigues new-to-town screenwriter Don Wilson (Tracy Letts) with a flair for conspiracies.
Vic’s jealousy really boils over when he meets Melinda’s next would-be lover, a local musician named Charlie (Jacob Elordi) giving her piano lessons. When Charlie ends up drowning in a pool at a local party, Melinda immediately accuses Vic of murdering him, which drives Don to investigate further.
Despite her doubts about her husband’s innocence, Melinda is still willing to tempt fate with another boyfriend, Tony (Finn Wittrock), who might just inspire her to run off to Brazil.
Deep Water is mostly a dry arrangement of passive-aggressive character interactions that occasionally result in some fatalistic intrigue. The film is rather ambiguous at first about just what Vic is capable of before removing any doubt by the final act. The story mostly requires Affleck to look angry at the people around him, an acting technique not far off from his usual range. To compensate for the slowly simmering plot tensions, Lyne turns up the eroticism with a very sensual performance from de Armas, who also, thankfully, is well suited for the task.
The best thing about the movie is little Grace Jenkins as Vic and Melinda’s adorable daughter Trixie, who steals pretty much every scene she’s in. The filmmakers know it, too, which is why the end credits are just an extended outtake of a scene of her riding in a car singing the ’70s hit “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing.”