Premise: A well-to-do husband who allows his wife to have affairs in order to avoid a divorce becomes a prime suspect in the disappearance of her lovers.
 

For the briefest moment in Deep Water‘s increasingly ridiculous tonal massacre of a climax, there’s a slight glimmer that something sort of unique may happen. However, the feeling is fleeting as the film’s ending simply confirms what we’ve already assumed through the previous hour and a half; not only does Deep Water not have any idea what it wants to be, but director Adrian Lyne doesn’t seem up to figuring it out himself. Instead, Lyne poses the question, “What if an erotic thriller was devoid of sexuality while also lacking any suspense whatsoever?” The jumbled and maddeningly awkward Deep Water is the answer and it’s not something that’s worth seeking out.

The relationship at Deep Water‘s center is the troubled and toxic marriage of Vic Van Allen (Ben Affleck) and his wife Melinda (Ana de Armas). The two have a tacit agreement in which Melinda can sleep with whomever she wishes in exchange for not divorcing Vic. However, Vic’s jealousy often gets the better of him and Melinda’s lovers seem to disappear quite frequently. The premise has the potential to be an intriguing, if fairly straightforward, erotic thriller but the finished product squanders any chance of it being interesting. Simply put, Deep Water is a bland exercise in implied intimacy and suspense that’s far too vague and scant to be effective.

To start, Vic and Melinda’s relationship has no real weight behind it. We learn that Vic retired rich after inventing a computer chip that’s used in drone warfare. The few times this is mentioned, the script jumps over itself to have characters over explain their moral objections to Vic’s indirect participation in drone warfare. It wouldn’t be as distracting if it weren’t the only memorable thing about the Vic character. Everything else he does is in reaction to Melinda’s flagrant flaunting of her extramarital relationships. To the movie’s credit, at least Bic has some kind of backstory. Melinda’s sole character trait in Deep Water is that she sleeps with men who aren’t her husband.

Melinda’s affairs are showcased for Vic and the audience alike aggressively without being gratuitous or, truth be told, even that tantalizing. She invites a lover to a party she and Vic are attending and then openly flirts with him in a way that feels targeted at Vic to elicit his jealousy. The emotional drama and mind games that play out are perhaps the biggest strength in a movie that is severely malnourished and feeble in every other area. But it’s not enough to have one party playing with the other’s jealousy and insecurities. The film chooses not to develop a reason why Melinda wants to manipulate and hurt Vic. In fact, the film doesn’t even give their relationship enough background to establish why the agreed upon affairs would trigger potentially homicidal urges in Vic. The entire film is misstep after misstep playing out over an underdeveloped and uninteresting plot.

Even with the film’s central relationship a weak point of the plot, Deep Water does try to bring a wrinkle into the thriller proceedings with Tracy Letts’ Don Wilson. Don is a writer who fancies himself to be a character out of a classic noir story. He’s anything but that. In fact, he’s oafish, awkward, and someone who isn’t taken seriously in his social circle or at home. While the character is important enough to play a part in the film’s climax, it’s so absurdly laughable that it functions as Deep Water‘s only real entertaining moment, if entirely by accident and at the film’s expense.

There could be something said about Tracy Letts’ character being a reflection of Vic and Melinda’s relationship. He’s pretending to be something he’s not in the way that Vic and Melinda are presenting themselves as happily married when they’re not. Whether that’s the intention or if it’s a reach to grasp at any hint of subtlety in a film that is obnoxiously sparse with subtext is irrelevant. The truth is, Deep Water has little redeeming it from being a bore of an erotic thriller with undeveloped characters and a plot devoid of suspense.

 
Deep Water premieres March 18th exclusively on Hulu.

About the Writer: Matt Hurt is the creator of ObsessiveViewer.com. He also created, hosts, and produces The Obsessive ViewerAnthology, and Tower Junkies podcasts. He is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association and lives in Indianapolis with his cat Pizza Roll. 

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