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Flat Lyne

Yo, Adrian! Unfaithful is damn near unwatchable!

To the woman who broke Adrian Lyne's heart all those years ago: Stop what you're doing right this minute. Drop everything; pick up the phone, and call him. Apologize profusely for cheating on him. Tell him it's all your fault and you're a worse person for leaving him. Offer him half your assets if you have to. Just help him get over it so he can quit lecturing us, through his films, about how cheating on your spouse is bad.

"Having an affair is nothing like taking a pottery class," opines Tracy (Kate Burton) to her best friend Constance (Diane Lane). "They always end disastrously." Indeed. Like most of Lyne's previous films (Fatal Attraction, Lolita) Unfaithfulmakes that point abundantly clear. But adultery's just so hard to resist! What woman would settle for a passive-aggressive Richard Gere, brown hair dye or not, when she could have a French guy (Olivier Martinez) who wears black T-shirts, smokes and drinks, and can read Braille? As Lyne himself puts it in the press kit, "The most ordinary, mundane things are far more interesting when you watch them from a French or Italian or Latin person."

Thanks for clearing that one up, Adrian, but unfortunately there's nothing interesting in Unfaithful whatsoever. Here's the gist: Constance (which ultimately gets shortened to "Con," because she lies -- get it?) cheats on hubby Edward (Gere) with hunky Paul (Martinez), and Edward figures things out and gets upset. This takes two hours, which feels like four or more. Even those looking to catch a few Diane Lane tit shots will be so exhausted by the endless nothingness between each one that it won't be worth it (besides, you could always rent A Walk on the Moon instead).

Diane Lane and Richard Gere try to repair their damaged marriage in Unfaithful.
Diane Lane and Richard Gere try to repair their damaged marriage in Unfaithful.

It's unclear whom we're supposed to root for here, if anyone. Edward seems basically decent, despite a penchant for hideous sweaters (which his wife buys for him, so no excuse there), but he seems to psychically anticipate his wife's adultery, then mopes about it for ages and finally lashes out in ludicrous fashion. Constance is shallow enough to fall for a foreign accent, yet remarkably stupid about hiding the affair, taking lunch with Paul in full view of one of her hubby's business associates and giving her lover a snow globe that's been prominently displayed in her own living room for years -- as if Edward won't notice it's gone. Paul is French, and he says silly things like, "There's no such thing as a mistake -- there's what you do and what you don't do." Enough said there.

We're possibly supposed to feel bad for Con and Ed's kid, Charlie, played by Malcolm in the Middle sibling Erik Per Sullivan. But giving us a nice, long look at him urinating early on isn't a good start (though it beats the scene of Lane trying to douche in an Amtrak bathroom). Young Charlie is, of course, always waking up in the middle of the night at just the right time to catch his mom crying or yelling, and he gets to make innocent observations like "What's 'accountable'? Is that like people who eat people?" You can thank screenwriters Alvin Sargent (who should know better, as he wrote Ordinary People) and William Broyles Jr. (of Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes; all bets are off there) for such bon mots.

The entire film is supposedly a loose adaptation of Claude Chabrol's 1968 La Femme Infidele, an assertion which implies that Unfaithful has anything even resembling a plot, adapted or otherwise. It figures: Lyne's never been much for originality. Even putting aside his misguided Lolita remake, Fatal Attraction was more or less Play Misty for Me, and Jacob's Ladder was a modern-day knockoff of Carnival of Souls. And yet had those progenitors never existed, Lyne's oeuvre would still be unoriginal -- remakes of his own adultery template, over and over and over.

He tries to spice things up each time with a bit of metaphor: AIDS in Fatal Attraction, class envy in Indecent Proposal, pedophilia in Lolita and a very vague drug-addiction metaphor here (Constance oversleeps, drives badly and neglects her kid because she needs, needs, needs French cock). Sometimes it works enough to give us a dim diversion. Here it doesn't, because nothing actually happens.

Nothing, that is, until a pivotal confrontation halfway through the film that results in tragedy -- though the way the leads react, it sometimes feels like comedy. Without giving a minor, fairly unsurprising "twist" away, let's just say that from then on the film plays like one of the worst Tales From the Crypt episodes, one of the crime-based ones without the benefit of monsters to liven things up. (Where's Mothman when you need him?) The ending was reportedly changed after bad early word of mouth, but, sad to say, it's still laugh-out-loud ludicrous.

 
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