Skip to main content

I’m not being rude. I made lobster bisque.

Deep Water
(2022)

(SPOILERS) Adrian Lyne’s belated return to cinema is par for the course with his erratic directorial resumé. His last film was two decades ago; now an octogenarian, Lyne’s industry standing was undoubtedly damaged by the crashing and burning of an ill-advised and costly Lolita remake. Obviously, his principle rep has been in the erotic thriller/drama genre – varyingly including 9½ Weeks, Fatal Attraction, Indecent Proposal and Unfaithful – and this Patricia Highsmith adaptation very loosely conforms to that template. Rumours circulated that Deep Water was unreleasable, such that it was being dumped on Hulu/Amazon Prime as a means of avoiding the humiliation of an outright bomb. Really, though, it’s no better or worse than any given example from the genre’s ’90s heyday, despite the inevitable critical mauling it has received.

Deep Water doesn’t necessarily make life easy for itself, however. There’s been no shortage of Highsmith adaptations over the years, and they’ve run the gamut in quality, from the mastery of Strangers on a Train to the mystifying popularity of The Untalented Mr. Ripley. Here, the plot is reasonably faithful to the source material, which can be a problem, as suspension of disbelief on the page doesn’t necessarily translate to the screen. Consequently, Deep Water is enjoyably daft hokum for the most part, even if its second hour devolves into the kind of standard-issue plot devices the first appeared to be having a lot of fun undercutting.

Perhaps that’s partly down to a case of mistaken perception on my part. It comes as a genuine disappointment to discover Vic Van Allen (Ben Affleck) was only joking with duh-bro Joel Dash (Brendan C Miller) about killing Malcolm McRae, the last guy who had an affair with wife Melinda (Ana de Armas). Prior to this, such unruffled, upfront bravado represented a highly appealing counterpoint to the awful people his floozy of a missus and her wretched menfolk are (he’s arguably as much to blame for standing for her behaviour, mind; his rationale appears to be that it’s worth it, as “We have a child. We have a family”; “That was your choice” she retorts, further sinking any chances she has of sympathy). It’s small compensation when Vic discovers he does have a penchant for bumping off her liaisons.

Indeed, Affleck, of whom I’ve often been critical, is on fine form throughout, clearly enjoying a character who leans into calculated, self-amused, unapologetic psychopathy, while also being a devoted dad (to Grave Jenkins’ Trixie). If anything, Deep Water’s problem is leaning too much into the novel’s “plausibilities”; screenwriters Zach Helm and Sam Levinson rightly ejected the most excessive developments of the final act, but they’re still left with the cheesy device of screenwriter Don (Tracy Letts) becoming overtly suspicious of Vic and investigating him with Melinda; his conveniently showing up at an incredibly inconvenient moment for Vic is the ultimate in Z-grade psycho-thriller shlock, but that has to be balanced against the agreeably absurd means by which Vic ultimately gets the better of him.

Other devices, such as his daughter attempting to extract a confession from him, seem to go nowhere. We learn Vic made his money designing a computer chip for military drones; his indifference to their lethal application is one of the picture’s overt means of establishing him as a budding psycho, but even with something like this, Affleck’s measured playing turns something rather clumsy into a positive. I also held out a vague hope something truly oddball would ensue from the tension between Vic and Melinda, such as a reveal they’re playing an elaborate game of seduce and kill, where even her public accusations are part of an extended round of complicit, mutual psychopathy; that would at least have given her some agency beyond tipsy trollop.

Nevertheless, de Armas is entirely game for such an unsympathetic role, and Affleck – Lyne stays with his perspective throughout – seems to positively exult in his, via a range of blackly comic remarks. Vic’s response to the idea that he’s being rude to dinner guest Joel (Melinda has demanded he invite him round and apologise): “I’m not being rude. I made lobster bisque” he responds evenly. Later, when they are alone, with regard to winding Joel up: “I can’t apologise for that, Joel. I did kill Mr McRae. I hit him with a hammer”. And telling Tony, keen to use some of his pet snails for cooking purposes, that they have to be appropriately prepared, “Otherwise, you’ll poison yourself and die”. Returning, all sprightly and self-assured from murdering Tony (Finn Wittrock) with some expertly propelled rocks: “I like him. He’s actually got some brains”.

Elsewhere, Lil Rel Howery and Dash Mihok appear as the kind of best buds who you hoped had long-since fallen by the wayside of the protagonist’s redundant confidante clichés. Lyne was clearly smitten with his pint-sized star, as he includes a Jenkins karaoke number over the end credits. Which… well, outtakes are fine following a comedy, and I get that he’s aware he’s playing genre games, but does he really want viewers to dismiss his movie as forgettably empty-headed quite so emphatically and immediately?






Popular posts from this blog

You were this amazing occidental samurai.

Ricochet (1991) (SPOILERS) You have to wonder at Denzel Washington’s agent at this point in the actor’s career. He’d recently won his first Oscar for Glory , yet followed it with less-than-glorious heart-transplant ghost comedy Heart Condition (Bob Hoskins’ racist cop receives Washington’s dead lawyer’s ticker; a recipe for hijinks!) Not long after, he dipped his tentative toe in the action arena with this Joel Silver production; Denzel has made his share of action fare since, of course, most of it serviceable if unremarkable, but none of it comes near to delivering the schlocky excesses of Ricochet , a movie at once ingenious and risible in its plot permutations, performances and production profligacy.

No one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.

The Matrix  (1999) (SPOILERS) Twenty years on, and the articles are on the defining nature of The Matrix are piling up, most of them touching on how its world has become a reality, or maybe always was one. At the time, its premise was engaging enough, but it was the sum total of the package that cast a spell – the bullet time, the fashions, the soundtrack, the comic book-as-live-action framing and styling – not to mention it being probably the first movie to embrace and reflect the burgeoning Internet ( Hackers doesn’t really count), and subsequently to really ride the crest of the DVD boom wave. And now? Now it’s still really, really good.

People still talk about Pandapocalypse 2002.

Turning Red (2022) (SPOILERS) Those wags at Pixar, eh? Yes, the most – actually, the only – impressive thing about Turning Red is the four-tiered wordplay of its title. Thirteen-year-old Mei (Rosalie Chiang) finds herself turning into a large red panda at emotive moments. She is also, simultaneously, riding the crimson wave for the first time. Further, as a teenager, she characteristically suffers from acute embarrassment (mostly due to the actions of her domineering mother Ming Lee, voiced by Sandra Oh). And finally, of course, Turning Red can be seen diligently spreading communist doctrine left, right and centre. To any political sensibility tuning in to Disney+, basically (so ones with either considerable or zero resistance to woke). Take a guess which of these isn’t getting press in reference to the movie? And by a process of elimination is probably what it it’s really about (you know in the same way most Pixars, as far back as Toy Story and Monsters, Inc . can be given an insi

I can’t be the worst. What about that hotdog one?

Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022) (SPOILERS) It would have been a merciful release, had the title card “ The End ”, flashing on screen a little before the ninety-minute mark, not been a false dawn. True, I would still have been unable to swab the bloody dildoes fight from my mind, but at least Everything Everywhere All at Once would have been short. Indeed, by the actual end I was put in mind of a line spoken by co-star James Wong in one of his most indelible roles: “ Now this really pisses me off to no end ”. Or to put it another way, Everything Everywhere All at Once rubbed me up the wrong which way quite a lot of most of the time.

We could be mauled to death by an interstellar monster!

Star Trek Beyond (2016) (SPOILERS) The odd/even Star Trek failure/success rule seemed to have been cancelled out with the first reboot movie, and then trodden into ground with Into Darkness (which, yes, I quite enjoyed, for all its scandalous deficiencies). Star Trek Beyond gets us back onto more familiar ground, as it’s very identifiably a “lesser” Trek , irrespective of the big bucks and directorial nous thrown at it. This is a Star Trek movie that can happily stand shoulder to shoulder with The Search for Spock and Insurrection , content in the knowledge they make it look good.

He's not in my pyjamas, is he?

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969) (SPOILERS) By rights, Paul Mazursky’s swinging, post-flower-power-gen partner-swap movie ought to have aged terribly. So much of the era’s scene-specific fare has, particularly so when attempting to reflect its reverberations with any degree of serious intent. Perhaps it’s because Mazursky and co-writer Larry Tucker (also of The Monkees , Alex in Wonderland and I Love You, Alice B. Toklas! ) maintain a wry distance from their characters’ endeavours, much more on the wavelength of Elliott Gould’s Ted than Robert Culp’s Bob; we know any pretensions towards uninhibited expression can’t end well, but we also know Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice have to learn the hard way.

I think World War II was my favourite war.

Small Soldiers (1998) An off-peak Joe Dante movie is still one chock-a-block full of satirical nuggets and comic inspiration, far beyond the facility of most filmmakers. Small Soldiers finds him back after a six-year big screen absence, taking delirious swipes at the veneration of the military, war movies, the toy industry, conglomerates and privatised defence forces. Dante’s take is so gleefully skewed, he even has big business win! The only problem with the picture (aside from an indistinct lead, surprising from a director with a strong track record for casting juveniles) is that this is all very familiar. Dante acknowledged Small Soldiers was basically a riff on Gremlins , and it is. Something innocuous and playful turns mad, bad and dangerous. On one level it has something in common with Gremlins 2: The New Batch , in that the asides carry the picture. But Gremlins 2 was all about the asides, happy to wander off in any direction that suited it oblivious to whet

We’ve got the best ball and chain in the world. Your ass.

Wedlock (1991) (SPOILERS) The futuristic prison movie seemed possessed of a particular cachet around this time, quite possibly sparked by the grisly possibilities of hi-tech disincentives to escape. On that front, HBO TV movie Wedlock more than delivers its FX money shot. Elsewhere, it’s less sure of itself, rather fumbling when it exchanges prison tropes for fugitives-on-the-run ones.

He’ll regret it to his dying day, if ever he lives that long.

The Quiet Man (1952) (SPOILERS) The John Wayne & John Ford film for those who don’t like John Wayne & John Ford films? The Quiet Man takes its cues from Ford’s earlier How Green Was My Valley in terms of, well less Anglophile and Hibernophile and Cambrophile nostalgia respectively for past times, climes and heritage, as Wayne’s pugilist returns to his family seat and stirs up a hot bed of emotions, not least with Maureen O’Hara’s red-headed hothead. The result is a very likeable movie, for all its inculcated Oirishness and studied eccentricity.

There is a war raging, and unless you pull your head out of the sand, you and I and about five billion other people are going to go the way of the dinosaur.

The X-Files 5.14: The Red and the Black The most noteworthy aspect of this two parter is that it almost – but not quite – causes me to reassess my previous position that the best arc episodes are those that avoid tackling the greater narrative head-on, attempting to advance the resistant behemoth. It may be less than scintillating as far as concepts go, but the alien resistance plot is set out quite clearly here, as are the responses to it from the main players.