Greetings again from the darkness. Based on his work, arguments can be made on both sides. Director Adrian Lyne is either a staunch believer in monogamous marriages, or he enjoys mocking the concept altogether. Surprisingly, this is his first film in 20 years since UNFAITHFUL (2002). To refresh your memory, he’s also the force behind 9 ½ WEEKS (1986), FATAL ATTRACTION (1987), and INDECENT PROPOSAL (1993). Co-writers Zach Helm and Sam Levinson have adapted the script from the 1957 novel by Patricia Highsmith, who also wrote “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and “Strangers on a Train”.
“Do you know I love you?” When one spouse feels the need to ask about love rather than declare it, you know it’s an unusual marriage. And in the category of unusual marriages, you’d be hard-pressed to find an arrangement more bizarre than the one between Vic (Ben Affleck) and Melinda (Ana de Armas). Thanks to real life public drama for Will Smith and Jada Pinkett, we all know that “open marriages” are a thing. But this with Vic and Melinda is neither fully “open” nor fully a marriage. Vic invented and sold a computer chip used in drones (mostly for warfare) and he’s so rich, that he’d rather watch his free-spirited wife drag home new boy-toys than give her an expensive divorce. But that’s as much explanation as we receive for what seems like a lose-lose-lose scenario. That third lose is for Melinda’s gentlemen friends who seem to mysteriously disappear once Vic becomes aware of them. One is gone before the movie even starts, and he’s followed by Jacob Elordi, Brandan Miller, and Finn Wittrock.
Perhaps the biggest mystery here is in deciding who displays more charisma, Affleck in this role or the snails that his character Vic breeds. We’ve joked about actors sleepwalking through roles before, but there are scenes here where that may actually be happening. Affleck mostly just dead-eyes Melinda and her men, though we are supposed to interpret his lack of expression as a combination of anger, jealousy, and lust. Fortunately, we have Ana de Armas to liven things up. She’s a full-grown party girl going through various stages of designer dress and un-dress. The supporting cast is comprised of Dash Mihok, Lil Rey Howery (who is in every movie these days), Kristen Connolly, Grace Jenkins as the smarter-than-parents kid to Vic and Melinda, and Tracy Letts as a curious novelist constantly side-eyeing Vic as research for a new book.
Is it cheesy? Yes. Is it sleazy? Yes. Despite twenty years of no movies, director Lyne delivers another high-gloss, play-pretend trashy erotic thriller that will fit perfectly in the streaming world. Affleck disappoints here after strong turns in THE TENDER BAR (2021) and THE WAY BACK (2020), and Ms. de Armas will next appear as Marilyn Monroe in BLONDE. Ben and Ana had their tabloid moment as a romantic couple after filming, but she is now the gone girl, and he has since reunited with JoLo. There are too many gaps in the story and characters for this to be considered a serious movie, but it’s sure to be entertaining enough for many.
Premiers on HULU beginning March 18, 2022