In Review

Film review: Deep Water 

A disappointing adaptation of a lesser-known Patricia Highsmith novel

Twenty years since Adrian Lyne (Fatal Attraction, 9½ Weeks) last made a movie, he is back with this adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1957 novel Deep Water, said Tim Robey in The Daily Telegraph. The setting has been moved from 1950s New England to present-day New Orleans, where an unhappily married couple, Vic (Ben Affleck) and Melinda (Ana de Armas), are living in a “blithe cocoon of wealth”. He is a tech millionaire who got rich by developing chips for military drones, while she is a “shameless vixen” many years his junior, whose “serial infidelities” – conducted under his nose – may, or may not, be driving him to bump off her lovers. De Armas is “magnetic”, but her character “obstinately refuses” to develop; ultimately there’s something a bit dated about her “femme-fatale-ish” unknowability and “crackling sexuality”. The film has “glossy watchability” in spades, and the fact that the co-stars have dated in real life does add “frisson” – but the finale is a “hodgepodge” that overshadows the beginning’s “playful promise”. 

Highsmith’s books normally make “terrific films”, said Brian Viner in the Daily Mail; think of The Talented Mr Ripley or Carol. The trouble here isn’t so much the actors – they’re “fine” – but the people they’re playing, who are so unlikeable you stop caring “who did what to whom”. Casting Affleck wasn’t the “worst idea”, said Danny Leigh in the Financial Times, but in this role he deploys so many “inert scowls” he starts to evoke Mr Potato Head. The film feels “forever at odds with itself”, at once flippant and morose, “nervously post-#MeToo” and “ethically grubby”. Still, it’s a “torrid cocktail” for those who have missed the once ubiquitous erotic thriller genre. 

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