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Multiplex smut merchant Adrian Lyne's latest dollop of cinematic sauce is the flipside of his 1987 bunny-boiling classic Fatal Attraction, right down to the same matrimonial set-up, industrial lifts and the use of big white bathtubs. Only this time it's the wife who strays from domestic bliss with devastating effects.
Suburban housewife Connie (Diane Lane) has a beautiful house, a loving hubby, Edward (Richard Gere), and an endearing moppet (the delightfully solemn Erik Per Sullivan). Unfortunately, though, her most exciting days consist of packing her son's lunch and, if she's really lucky, having unspectacular, comfortable-as-slippers sex with Ed. Then she bumps into bemulleted Frenchman Paul (Olivier Martinez) on a ridiculously windy day in SoHo, and is soon tempted into a lusty, athletic affair conducted in cinemas, public toilets and communal stairwells. But bumbling Ed is on to her...
A remake of Claude Chabrol's 1969 La Femme Infidèle, Lyne's moralist tale pants and grunts with the same gender politics as Fatal Attraction, condemning Connie's sexuality by ensuring that her friend's warning - "affairs always end badly" - comes horrifically true. But Unfaithful at least avoids melodrama, instead presenting a compelling view of domestic stagnancy, desire and guilt through the wonderfully wounded performances of its leads.
Gere is excellent, trading in the role he might once have had as the lover for a revelatory turn as a duplicitous cuckold. And although Lane will grab headlines by causing a stir in the titillating sex scenes, it's her faultless projection of emotional and moral ambivalence that holds an overlong and, at times, self-important movie together. A scene where she giggles and weeps on a commuter train as she recalls her sexual transgressions is particularly resonant, capturing both her exhilaration and her wretchedness, her delirium and her remorse. Unfaithful doesn't settle for lurid spectacle: it wants to be a study of human imperfection - and damn near succeeds.
Schoolboy wank-fest meets adult character study, as sweaty bonking punctuates absorbing mulling. Be prepared to leave the cinema stroking your, er, chin as well as rearranging your trousers.
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