I love doing these reviews, but they don’t pay the bills. In fact, I still have to pay to see most movies, so I don’t bother seeing movies that are obviously not worth my time. As for what I do see, it can come down to a bunch of factors: an interesting synopsis, a cool looking trailer, a filmmaker whose work I admire, actors I’m a fan of… Then there’s “Unfaithful”, the first movie I went to see almost solely for its music! I loathe Richard Gere, director Adrian Lyne’s got a pitiful track record (“Flashdance”? “Indecent Proposal”???) and the critics are mostly lukewarm or negative, but at least its got a composer with taste. You see, Jan A.D. Kaczmarek had the great idea to fly Quebec cellist-singer JoRane to L.A. to work on the film score. Her name might mean diddlysquat to folks at large but believe me, that girl is amazing. Her latest album, 16mm, is a thing of beauty, inspiring the trippiest little films in your head, and she’s even better live. Hence, if it means I’ll get to hear some new material, I’ll watch any movie, unappealing as it might seem.
Based on the Claude Chabrol film “La femme infidèle”, the film revolves around Constance (Diane Lane), a suburban married mom who’s seduced by a greasy Frenchman (Olivier Martinez) with a nice big loft filled with old books in Soho. Why does she do it? Good question, but the film doesn’t offer much answers. Actually, I don’t think you’re supposed to question what happens at all. You just have to sit and accept that a seemingly smart, happy woman with a rich, caring husband who looks like Richard Gere would throw it all away for some hanky panky with a young unshaven bum who bullshits women in a thick French accent, Pepe Le Pew style: “You have amazing eyes. You should never close them, not even at night.” Or he’s got this nifty little scam where he has her pick one of his many books of a shelf, open it at page 23 and read: “This moment is your life”. Tsk, as if he didn’t do that with every girl!
Maybe Constance is bored with her neat suburban life, maybe she’d rather have rough public sex with a near stranger than the usual quick-the-boy-is-asleep-let’s-do-this with her Cosby sweater wearing husband. But even if you buy the premise, for the longest time the film doesn’t go anywhere with it. For a movie with such a literal title, it sure takes forever for what we know is gonna happen to happen. Lyne painstakingly revels into the oh so comfy, oh so elegant life of the Sumners, with their huge mansion, their dog, their two cars in the garage, their Black maid, Connie’s snow globe collection… Then in an oh so symbolic storm, Constance is swept away by high winds right in the arms of Pepe. He invites her up but they don’t do it, oh no! Later she goes back to his bachelor pad but she stays all dressed again. Damn, woman, be unfaithful already! Even when the two lovers do get down to business, the film remains soporific. Diane Lane is a gorgeous woman, and every glimpse of her flesh is a welcomed distraction, but the sex itself is surprisingly tame, like something out of a pretentious soft-core porno. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by the natural, lively and truly sensual sex scenes in “Y Tu Mama Tambien”, but the so-called erotic scenes in “Unfaithful” seem awfully staged. Oooh, watch her belly button tremble! Hear him ask her to hit him, how wild… *yawn*
The film drags and drags between forgettable sex and scenes of Richard Gere getting suspicious. Some tension finally grows when Gere goes to Pepe’s House of Love to confront him, but it’s short-lived. Gere is just not much of an actor, Martinez is worse and Lyne blatantly botches his big shocker to the point where it’s downright laughable (it’s Gere’s ridiculous “squeak of rage” that did it for me). It drags some more from there, as the spouses try to cope with this horrible thing that’s come between them, but the movie apparently doesn’t know what to have them do or say, so they mostly stand there looking concerned until the ineffective last stroke of strained ambiguity. “Unfaithful”, it turns out, is even worse than I thought it would be, and the music wasn’t particularly noticeable outside of the use of an instrumental version of Radiohead’s “Exit Music (for a film)”. It’s mostly the usual piano and strings, with some female vocals in the first sex scene. That was JoRane’s big contribution, I guess, but if you’re not making an effort to pick it up, you won’t. You’re left with a movie with a strong performance from Diane Lane but little less to offer. Don’t bother.