One of the important aspects of being human is the formation of relationships. We are a social animal by nature and need the association of others of our kind. We form and join clubs and gather together in places of worship just to find that connection with other people. Of all the possible variations that social interaction can take the most important relationship aside from that of parent and child is the marital bond. While the exact definition of this relationship is currently a subject of heated debate all over the country the traditional view of one man and one woman is still he de facto standard. When two people marry they make a solemn vow to each other to remain faithful for the rest of their lives. While this is great in theory the facts bare out the reality than many stray from this laudable goal. Infidelity has been the driving theme of more stories in literature, film and television that would be possible to count. It is a prime motive for murder in many mysteries and is the fallback plot device for everything from drama to comedy. Many of the great dramatic films of any generation have had spousal cheating at the heart of the story. One of the classics in this sub genre is without a doubt a movie that is aptly named ‘Unfaithful’. They producers are at least straightforward here with the title leaving no question as to what will fuel the drama. This film is about a woman who enters into an extramarital affair and the consequences her deception have on her marriage and her emotional stability. While it is not the best film ever to take on the subject matter it does stand as a fan favorite. Critical acclaim was not heaped upon the movie but it made back well over twice the $52 million dollar investment so by the criteria that really matters to the studio this won counts as a hit. Much of the criticism heaped upon the film was not entirely warranted. This is a melodramatic thriller with erotic overtones and needs to be judged in that light. When that is taken into consideration this is a solid piece of entertainment that has enduring qualities that help define the genre. The film was originally released to DVD in 2002 but as is the case with a lot of older releases it is being given a new lease on life with a Blu-ray edition. Fox has been on a mission to make popular films in their catalogue available in the high definition format.
The film is actually a remake of a French film ‘La Femme infidèle’ written by Claude Chabrol. Creating the Americanized version of the screenplay fell to William Broyles Jr. and Alvin Sargent. Both of these men are award winner members of the screen writer’s guild. Broyles won and Oscar with his script for ‘Apollo 13’ and went on to ‘Polar Express’, ‘Flags of Our Fathers’ and ‘Jarhead’. Sargent received and Academy Award nomination for ‘Paper Moon’ and won for both ‘Julia’ and ‘Ordinary People’. This gives this film a leg up with a firm foundation provided by men who know how to craft a story that can pull in the audience. This level of expertise in the art of storytelling is evident in this film. The writers have given the audience characters that go far beyond the normal clichés and stereotypes that we have unfortunately become accustomed to watching on screen. These are realistically presented human beings in an extremely complicated and emotional set of circumstances. A story like this runs the danger of being pedantic and hackney. So many movies have been done about infidelity that many may go into watching this with the feeling that they have seen it all before. This is thankfully not the case. The story sweeps you into what would otherwise be a typical American scene. The characters are painted with a fine brush that allows for what occurs to be presented with a ring of honesty. That is to say not honesty within the marriage but in the way that that characters are allowed to express themselves. It has been written that the heart is a deceitful thing and this is the core to the story. The woman the story focuses on, Connie Sumner, brilliantly played by Diane Lane, is a person who is trapped by her life. She sees had affair as a return to more youthful passion that has ebbed out of her life in recent years. Most movies take the male perspective when showing a so called mid life crisis but these writers go in a different direction. This is from a female point of view. In some ways this takes on the feel of a romance novel but it works out in this presentation.
The film was directed by Adrian Lyne and he is certainly no stranger to controversy or pushing the limits. He started his career in direction slowly with his first feature film ‘Foxes’ about teen sexuality. From there he moved up to the film that made kitchens all over the country erotic, ‘Nine ½ Weeks’. From there he took on infidelity with ‘Fatal Attraction’ which resulted in many men becoming afraid to even think about another woman and gained Lyne an Oscar nomination. He also helmed ‘Indecent Proposal’ and ‘Lolita’ creating a trend in his films as touching on forbidden subjects. This film is remembered for some fairly explicit sex scenes, at least for that time. If also gave reaffirmation to women in their forties that they are still vital and sexual beings. This was a break from the tradition casting of the young starlet in a sexually oriented role. Diana Lane had been a phenomena as an actress since her 1983 breakout role in ‘The Outsiders’ and this film demonstrated that a woman can retain her sex appeal throughout her life. Lyne doesn’t pull his punches in this film. His style is able to combine romance, lust and sorrow in an outpouring of human emotions. As far as motivation goes you can’t get much better than adultery. It combines lust, passion and betrayal into an emotional roller coaster ride. In the hands of a director like Lyne it becomes an overwhelming story of the breakup of a marriage.
Constance (Diane Lane) and Edward Sumner (Richard Gere) live and work in New York City. They have been together long enough so that they have fallen into a somewhat comfortable routine. While there is still love the relationship is no longer passionate. On a trip to Manhattan Connie literally bumps into a stranger, Paul Martel (Olivier Martinez). She falls and scraps he knee and Paul invites her to his nearby apartment to clean up. There is a moment of indecision but is intrigued by the potential of adventure. He makes a slight advance towards her but nothing happens, at least not at first. Soon she is traveling into the city to meet him and the pair starts a torrid affair. It doesn’t take long before Edward begins to suspect something is up with all of the trips his wife is making to Manhattan. He hires a detective to get to the bottom of things and the confrontation is near.
This new Blu-ray edition of the film is great. The real advantage to the high definition format is with films like this. The details of the 1080p video show every nuance to the facial expressions of this talented cast. The use of shadows is remarkable adding a new dimension to a film you might have seen many times before. The DTS HD audio is perfect. Each sound is crisp and clear adding a dimension of reality that is far above the old Dolby 5.1 soundtrack. The extras provided here are the same ass the DVD version and still worth having. This is a steamy drama that is engrossing.