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movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Unfaithful

Starring: Richard Gere, Diane Lane
Director: Adrian Lyne
Rated: R
RunTime: 121 Minutes
Release Date: May 2002
Genres: Romance, Suspense, Erotica

*Also starring: Olivier Martinez, Erik Sullivan, Dominic Chianese, Chad Lowe

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Review by Harvey Karten
3 stars out of 4

As you watch the young stud played by Olivier Martinez change Lane a few times during this slow-moving but earthy drama, you might think: aside from Lady Chatterley, Bovary, and Hester Prynne, which gender do we usually think of when we think of the moral crime of adultery? I think of men, don't you? And yet, isn't it true that for every man who commits adultery, a woman has to be involved or am I being naive? I suppose if the woman is unattached, so to speak, she is guilty at most of housebreaking. In Adrian Lyne's new movie "Unfaithful," the blame is squarely on the middle-aged wife, Connie Summer (Diane Lane), who not only has every material good she needs but a handsome caring husband, Edward (Richard Gere) and an obedient and not overly cutesy eight-year-old son, Charlie (Erik Per Sullivan). Edward not only provides her the time and space to get facials, to go to auctions, and pretty much wander about town by train or car, but appears to have done nothing to warrant her fatal attraction to the twenty-eight year old Manhattan resident, whose French accent, two-day-old beard, cool, chaotic Soho pad and long black hair probably rope in the gals by the dozens.

Adrian Lyne is probably the best non-Gallic director for this fare, having clocked in with such movies as "9-1/2 Weeks" (considered too racy for Americans even as late as 1986 and was cut prior to release) and "Fatal Attraction," which pretty much trashes a woman with an obsession for a guy. Nor is Claude Chabrol a bad choice for role-model, as "Unfaithful" is itself loosely based on the French master's "La femme infidele," or "Unfaithful Woman," about a steadfast husband (Michel Bouquet) who would kill to save his marriage to his wife (Stephane Audran) and who upon discovering his wife's dalliance is obsessed not only with seeking out the lover but with sitting on the man's bed and drinking the man's liquor. In La femme infidele, the husband sleeps when his beautiful wife offers herself to him and therefore, in the opinion of some, deserves what he gets. However in "Unfaithful," Edward may have lost some of the passion he brought into his marriage to Connie eleven years earlier, but one could hardly picture him refusing to respond to his wife's overtures.

The conceit of the story is that many woman, whether they admit it or not, would be subjects for seduction if they spontaneously ran into guys who excite them. Passion makes risk-takers of us all. When Connie and young Paul Martel (Olivier Martinez) meet cute on a bright and windy day in Manhattan's chic Soho neighborhood, Paul invites the pretty woman to his spacious loft. Intrigued as well by the haphazard order of hundreds of books without a proper home, an elevator that works when it feels like, and the memory, perhaps, of her own freer days when she lived in Manhattan rather than in her overly tidy Westchester home, she succumbs to temptation. Foolishly she meets Paul not only in his apartment but in coffee houses where she could very well meet people she or Paul knew. The tension mounts in a Hitchcockian vein, but not before director Lyme treats us to scripters Alvin Sargent and William Broyles, Jr.'s humorous meeting between Connie and two old friends, Tracy (Kate Burton) and Sally (Margaret Colin), in a trendy coffee house.

While Richard Gere goes through his role reliably, as expected, the big surprise is Diane Lane who shows more breadth here than she had exhibited in movies like "A Walk on the Moon," "The Perfect Storm" and "The Glass House." She exhibits more of her perfect body than ever before though to be honest, the nudity hits us only in tantalizing segments. The scene that best shows what a great actress can do occurs on the Metro-North as Ms. Lane's character is returning home from a tryst with Paul. Reflecting on her first interval from middle- class morality, her face shows alternately joy and fear, freedom and guilt. The wordless minutes that follow a sudden break with routine evoke more about her characters than any words can do.

While Diane Lane's exceptional acting is reason enough to see the film, the story itself breaks no new ground and like "Changing Lanes," winds up with a ludicrous, if open conclusion. This is probably targeted toward a middle-aged and older audience, mature enough to realize the enormous danger into which a woman puts herself and family when she allows her hormones to rule her reason.

Copyright 2002 Harvey Karten

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