Deep Water Review: Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas' movie has sex appeal but lacks dramatic conviction
Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas' "murderously" toxic marriage in Deep Water has all the thrills and frills, but never digs deep into the couple's psychological chaos. Read Pinkvilla's review.
Deep Water Cast: Ben Affleck, Ana de Armas
Deep Water Director: Adrian Lyne
Streaming Platform: Amazon Prime Video
Deep Water Stars: 3/5
"If you were married to anyone else, you’d be so f*****g bored, you’d kill yourself," a simple, sultry line echoed by Melinda (Ana de Armas) to her husband Vic (Ben Affleck) perfectly sums up the cocktail chaos of a destructive marriage i.e. Deep Water, which marks erotic psychological thriller extraordinaire Adrian Lyne's directorial comeback, two decades since his classily made, Unfaithful. But does Deep Water do prime justice to Patricia Highsmith's 1957 novel from which it's based? Let's find out.
Deep Water chronicles the toxic-turned-deadly marriage between extremely bored and 'retired' tech entrepreneur Vic Van Allen and his gorgeous philandering wife Melinda Van Allen, who finds pleasure in the young and dumb than her own extremely successful and far more intellectual husband. While their elite neighbours have branded Melinda as the "villain" in her icy open marriage for flaunting her sexcapades in front of her husband, Vic seems acceptable of it, from the outside. However, as Melinda's lovers turn up missing and are eventually dead, you know there's more than meets the resting b***h eyes of a seemingly monotonous Vic.
Vic's reputable 'white man' image (along with being a doting dad to daughter Trixie [Grace Jenkins]!) is the perfect alibi to his criminal deeds, but a thorn in his way is novelist Don Wilson (Tracy Letts), who is looking for his next true crime material and is fixated on Vic's supposed secret. This especially rings true after Vic scares off Melinda's current fling Joel Dash (Brendan C. Miller) by "jokingly" accusing himself of Malcolm McRae's (Another one of Melinda's playthings) disappearance. With some more of Melinda's flirtatious eventual murderous rendezvous with pianist Charlie De Lisle (Jacob Elordi) and Tony Cameron (Finn Wittrock), a distraught Melinda herself is astonishingly wary of Vic's hidden innocence.
Adrian's stylistic 'thrills and frills' direction, with a screenplay by Zach Helm and Sam Levinson, takes several creative liberties from the original source to fit Deep Water into a 2000s landscape but flounders when it's more concerned with the twists and turns rather than digging deep into the psychological mind frames of two deeply interesting characters. Ben and Ana, who had a brief PDA-filled romance during the making of the film expertly keep us on our toes between a supposedly loveless marriage that brings out the passion through insane bouts of jealousy, a theme Lyne is a master at.
On one hand, Affleck's performance will leave viewers divided because his stone-cold, poker face expressions may match Vic's carefully curated aloofness to his wife's open discretion, but it remains constant throughout, even though the most dramatic, thrilling of sequences. The concurrent theme of cycling like your life depends on it, recalling the unexpected euphoria after a misdeed to the metaphorical inclusion of taming snails is never truly explained and rather just used as a stylistic motif for the viewer to uncover themselves. On the other hand, Armas breathes colourful light into the otherwise dull, droll lives of the rich and elite with her seductive performance that's plenty of erotica but without a cause.
We're given specks of character sketches about Melinda here and there, but it never truly bounds to anything, as to why she is the way she is. Is it to reignite the long lost passion with her husband? Is it to appeal to her bored housewife life and find someone who makes her feel alive, even if temporary? Is it insecurity of not being in the same level as her househusband and finding someone who matches her stature? Is she well aware of her husband's killing spree schtick and is guilty by association, using her lovers as bait? None of this is explored, which is a shame, given how Adrian Lyne is the one steering the wheel. More importantly, what is the exact motive behind Vic's serial killer spree; Melinda or something even more disturbing? Deep Water is plenty entertaining for a casual watch but doesn't have an in-depth explanation behind all the homicidal tendencies that would make it a classic in the genre that's hard to master.
At a duration of almost two hours, Andrew Mondshein and Tim Squyres's editing distracts considerably as viewers are taken for granted, having to solve the missing puzzle pieces on their own accord. This is especially frustrating if you aren't well-versed with the original source. Moreover, Marco Beltrami's dramatic score feels caricaturish to the celebrated genre, adding next to no suspence for what's to come.
In finality, Deep Water has plenty of sex appeal but lacks in providing dramatic conviction with an ending that feels eerily similar to Ben Affleck's more affluent outing, Gone Girl.