Starring: Ben Affleck, Ana de Armas, Tracy Letts, Kristen Connelly, Lil Rel Howrey, Dash Mihok, Finn Wittrock, and Rachel Blanchard.
Directed By: Adrian Lyne
Where I Watched It: Hulu
English Audio Description Available?: Yes
The Plot: Vic (Affleck) is a wealthy man, who retired early after inventing a chip that made him a ton of money, and married a real firecracker (de Armas), with whom he also produced a daughter. But of course, this is an Adrian Lyne film, so the sexy angle here is that he lets his wife sleep around with other guys… or does he?
What Works: If I knew nothing about this film, woke up in a movie theatre and this film was playing, I would assume that Adrian Lyne was the director. This film is just dripping with his usual subject matter, and approach to storytelling. I know it’s based on a book, but let’s be honest. Lyne was standing behind the author the whole time probably dictating the story just so he could adapt it into the most Adrian Lyne movie in years.
For the uninitiated, go have a mini marathon with Fatal Attraction, unfaithful, and Indecent Proposal, and that should prepare you for the full Lyne as it were. you know what to expect from a film like his. This is not a Daddy Day Care director, he’ll never helm a Marvel or Pixar film. his films are dripping with sex, mystery, and very typically, murder. But sex is quite centric to the plot.
And here, Lyne puts open marriages on blast, suggesting that this well-to-do couple have major issues because the wife loves to sleep around, and the husband likes to seem progressive by saying that he doesn’t feel the need to control his wife. But as the film progresses, you realize how untrue that is,but instead of doing it directly, he’s manipulating things around her, under her nose.
Even though they are now broken up in real life, Affleck and De Armas are fire in this film. Not just their individual performances, which are great, but their scenes together always have this undertone that each person in the marriage is always saying something without really saying it. Both of them feel like they’re constantly fucking with each other, in both a playful manner, and also potentially a dangerous one.
That’s what makes the film work so well, is this sense of unease, because even though the film sells us rather early on that Affleck may not be playing a good guy, it never corrects our vision of his wife either. It rides this very perfect line, keeping you consistently interested in the prospect that neither one of these people are good human beings. And that their incredibly toxic relationship may have far graver consequences by the end of the film. It’s those possibilities that Lyne opens up, and keeps fueling that really make Deep Water a terrific film.
His expertise in this field, as well as having developed trust with his audience over the course of his career that this type of film is exactly what he’s good at, keep you on the edge till the end. Truthfully, I didn’t even find the ending that mind blowing, but the anticipation toward it was so great, I respected the overall craft of the film.
And truthfully, we are living through the best of Ben Affleck’s career. After performances in The Way Back and The Tender Bar, here he is again with a really complex character I never would have guessed he could have pulled off 20 years ago. And, when Ana de Armas first started breaking on the Hollywood scene in films like War Dogs, I didn’t think she was very good. It wasn’t until Knives Out that I saw her potential, and she’s literal fire here.
What Doesn’t Work: Functionally, the story requires that we accept that the police in this vicinity are by far the most inept in the entire country. Harriet The Spy could solve this mystery. It’s pretty obvious where all roads point, so i don’t know how they plan to exist after the ending point of the film. I tried to say that as spoiler free as possible, but these cops suck.
There’s a hilarious moment when a character is talking about his marijuana use when being interviewed by a cop, and the cop actually tells this character (who is also black, because if there’s one group of people the cops let off the hook…), and he just doesn’t care. He verbalizes that he doesn’t care, even as the character mumbles about having a card. Maybe being among all these wealthy individuals, they just decided to let these things slide. But, it did help set up the idea, which is necessary for this film to progress, that the cops in the vicinity of these characters are terrible at their jobs.
Any other problems I have with the film, actually are supported by the design of the characters themselves. I’ve heard some others remark about how they didn’t like the film because they couldn’t get into these characters, and it’s true. The main couple here are not relatable people, and you don’t really want to see either of them succeed. They are both deeply flawed, but that’s actually what makes their dynamic so interesting, and half of the reason why the film works. If one character was easy to root for, then the power dynamic shifts, but part of this structure relies on the power dynamic being rather even between these two.
The Blind Perspective: Overall, this film has some of the best audio description in existence. The descriptions here are so incredibly rich, with lots of descriptive adjectives about a person’s clothing, hairstyle, general demeanor, facial expressions, everything, No one just “stares”. They “stare despondently with their brows furrowed”, if you get the drift. It almost felt like a novel, we were getting so much description. However…
I do have some thoughts. First, there was a missed opportunity. There is a scene in the film where Affleck is standing in his home, and his daughter and the babysitter are both present, and I guess Ana De Armas walks in naked. Although, we didn’t get anything in the audio description about her walking in naked, or just how “naked” she was. Sometimes, people are considered naked when they are only wearing underwear. The only reason we know this happens, is because Affleck reacts to it with dialogue. So that was a missed opportunity in an otherwise flawless description.
Then we get into the “should we use the name or not” debate. I know there is a faction of describers that won’t use a character’s name until it is given in the film. However, in the case of Lil Rel Howrey’s character, he is never given a name audibly, so the film just keeps referring to him as “Vic’s friend”, or a slight variation of that. on IMDB, he has a character name, and I feel like he probably does in the credits, but that part wasn’t described. He’s a big enough name of an actor to warrant using a character name, and he supposedly had one. He’s in multiple scenes in the film, and should have been named.
Final Thoughts: I know we’re pushing more and more mid-size to indie projects to streaming, and keeping theatres barren, but I believe this could have done some box office. I know I’m in the slight minority, and I think I liked the film maybe a bit more than some others, but I was just so glad to see Adrian Lyne operating back at the top of his game, and I was entranced by this character dynamic. Not a flawless film, and since he already has Fatal Attraction in the books, it is hard for Lyne to top himself, but knowing nothing about this film, I thought it was quite good.
Final Grade: A-