I resisted seeing the movie for a long time because of an unfortunate confusion: I thought that the female lead, played by Diane Lane was actually played by Dianne Wiest. Somehow the idea of Ms. Wiest locked in a torid affair with a swarthy frenchman seemed, well, untenable.
On my pay-per-view movie description screen last night in the Sheraton Nashua, I was warned that the movie contained “uninhibited sexuality.”
Now first off, what is the reason for distinguishing between “uninhibited sexuality” and the alternative (presumably “inhibited sexuality”) when posting such warnings? I can understand a warning, or at least a note, about sexual content in a movie, but if you were going to warn me about something, wouldn’t it make sense to warn me about the later, not the former? I mean, isn’t that the unhealthy alternative?
Ironically, the sexuality in Unfaithful is completely inhibited — that is what the movie is about. There is nary a sexual act, nor hint of same, that is not tinged with significant, heavy meaning. There is a thick fog of regret and confusion and guilt and passion and jealousy and anger suffused over the movie.
Having witnessed enough infidelity up close to know the territory, I can say with some authority that the movie is a stunningly accurate portrayal of how it all works: it’s messy and horrible and delightful and hurtful and liberating. And yet at the same time, completely normal and rationale seeming while you’re inside it.
Unfaithful is not a morality tale: it’s not about who’s right and who’s wrong, and least not as far as infidelity is concerned. It is not a classic “affair movie,” both in that the genders are reversed from the tradition, and because there’s no horrible “living a soulless shell of a life and forced into the arms of another” buildup.
The movie quite effectively demonstrates how random chance and momentary crazy mixed up feelings can push people towards doing things that would otherwise seem unreasonable. The Diane Ladd character doesn’t live a horrible existence. She is not unfulfilled, particularly, nor depressed (at least not more than the rest of us). She leans into having an affair rather than bursting into it, and although once she’s on the inside she is overcome by lusty irrationality, even that isn’t something foreign nor difficult to grasp.
The irony is that by bringing a turn of events that is normally couched in all sorts of turmoil and pathos down to earth and portraying it as normal and unfortunate, but with hideous consequences, the movie is probably more effective as a infidelity prophylactic that other, more overwrought movies on this theme.
Unfaithful makes being unfaithful look easy and familiar. That’s enough to put the fear of God into anyone.