Diane Lane, in a Golden Globe-nominated performance, plays Connie, a suburban housewife who has a perfectly nice home, a perfectly nice son, and most importantly, a perfectly nice marriage with Edward (Richard Gere), her husband of 11 years. But one fatefully windy day when she is in the city, she is literally blown into the arms of the Most Beautiful Man in the World (yes, Olivier Martinez of Chambermaid on the Titanic and Before Night Falls). This much younger man stirs something in her with his French accent, his sultry dark looks, and his apartment full of books (in reality, actor Martinez is only a year younger than Lane… ouch). Connie finds herself flustered and understandably intrigued, and ends up calling him when she “happens” to be in the city, oh, I don’t know, the next day perhaps.
Thus begins a torrid affair involving many acrobatic sexual positions and friskiness in creative public places (cafe bathroom, movie theater, and, Lyne’s fetish, an old-fashioned warehousey elevator). But, as any movie-viewer and/or best friend of Connie can tell her: such affairs are doomed to end badly.
But this is where Unfaithful becomes a little more daring. Edward picks up on Connie’s affair, and goes to confront the lover Paul. All I’ll say is that the consequences of this meeting shake the universe of all three characters, and the momentum of the film shifts from a drama to almost a mystery/thriller. Credit must be given to Richard Gere, as bland an actor as he often is: Gere’s Edward pretty much becomes the focus of the second half of the film, and he carries it ably. Edward is not a macho manly movie character—he seems like a real man that you might know—and his actions and responses to his predicaments are believable as opposed to over-the-top.
I struggled a bit with how to rate this film. Overall, Unfaithful offers a refreshing take on a typical adultery story, but at the same time overstays its welcome. In best Adrian Lyne fashion (remember Fatal Attraction?), the sex is more physically impressive than actually sexy (much has been said about the first physical encounter between Connie and Paul, where Connie is simultaneously shaking with desire and wracking guilt). And, frustratingly, the film would had benefited from more character development (thought Diane Lane fights and scratches to give her character more dimension than is written into the script).
By the daringly ambiguous ending, I found that I appreciated the effort put into Unfaithful, but was left with a nagging feeling that the film should have been better than it actually was.