"Having an affair is nothing like taking a pottery class. No, it would start out like that, and then something would happen; someone finds out or someone falls in love and it ends disastrously. They always end disastrously."
With these words, Tracy (Kate Burton) gesticulates the story of a suburban wife, Connie Sumner (Diane Lane), who has edged out of the humdrum existence of life and into the rarified strata of an affair.
Connie Sumner projects the aura of a woman dealing with a case of boredom and the sameness of life that has none of the gloss or glamour that perhaps enveloped her before her marriage to Edward (Richard Gere) eleven years before. She has become a trooper; the mother of a precocious little boy; a Junior League bastion of acceptability in a rich suburb of New York City that has all the earmarks of upper middle class living. The 19th century home on the lake, the extensive and manicured grounds, every blade of grass and hair in place, a handsome husband -- all hard won trophies that scream "I have reached the pinnacle of success!" And yet, when opportunity presents itself, Connie sets a course on a downward spiral that will end in the disastrous results that an affair must always betray.
On an extremely mundane and windy day, she sets her sights on New York City to attend to some charity auction business. In the process of trying to get down a street in Soho, she is literally swept into a man carrying an armload of books. Both are knocked to the ground. It is from this most innocent of beginnings that the torrid affair takes on a life of its own. It is born and matures into a relationship that will culminate in less than desirable straits before its eventual termination. Connie accepts the kindness of French book dealer, Paul Martel (Olivier Martinez), to bandage her knees which have suffered bloody unkindnesses, in his apartment.
Connie is a woman in her late 30's or perhaps early 40's and Paul is 27 going on "28 in July." The classic older woman, younger man syndrome. She has fallen into dispute with her emotions and the danger that an affair brings with it. That Martel betrays a scruffy, amourous, devil may care attitude about him, grasps her all the more to his person. With her lover, she is young again and life seems somehow more exciting to the touch. She fails to realize what she is possibly throwing away by her actions as the pleasure factor has negated all reason.
Diane Lane as Connie is superb. Her performance is worth a thousand accolades. She has etched a performance that is as intelligent as it it is forthright and unassuming. The scene of her initial foray with Martel is breathtaking, as she is for all intents and purposes entering into forbidden territory with a quivering of her body, mind and soul. A date with destiny and a pact with the devil have thus been sealed. Ms. Lane's emotions run the gamut from boredom, elation, sexiness, disdain, anger and the firmest of convictions that she has become a rat in a maze of her own architecture.
Richard Gere as Edward paints a portrait of a man whose life has achieved the heights reserved for those go-getters who have sought the challenge and won. Gere plays dad, husband, lover and eventually, volcano on the edge of the boiling point that spills forth with fatal results. His Edward conveys a wariness and uncertainty when he begins to suspect that there is "something wrong" with the new actions of his wife, and as the truth unfolds, as it must, a crescendo of complexity makes its appearance.
Oliver Martinez as Paul Martel is that secret sin that most women prize -- a confection of French delight and smarmy actions that sizzle. He is the honey which draws Connie into his arms, but morphs into a spider enticing her further into his web. The scene when Edward finally confronts him is priceless. It is put together like a puzzle, with each piece falling neatly into place until the crashing denouement rears its ugly head and we are left with a second story to absorb.
The last third of the film stretches credibility slightly, although it is perfectly understandable to think that what happened did. While there are moments that shine through the tendency to slip into soap opera, a great deal of the time is spent trying to overcome the "who did, I did" of relationships that went asunder and why. The final moments of the film present the viewer with a game of "what happened?", rather like the Saki short story, "The Lady or The Tiger." Which path was chosen? What was the eventual outcome of it all?
The music by Jan A. P. Kaczmarek is mesmerizing and rather like experiencing a lazy, summer day, touched with a tinge of sin and the long play of the wind as we drift to sleep to its steady beat.
Director Adrian Lyne was inspired by the 1969 French film, "La Femme infidele," directed and written by Claude Chabrol, as a basis for this current production. Lyne has crafted an adult drama that portrays the paths that people take when feeling out of sorts and what can and does happen because of them. His has drawn a performance from Diane Lane that is entirely credible and worthy of the Oscar nomination she has snared. The Academy would be well served to reward it, for she displays emotions and actions that induce a labour of consummate proportions. Here's hoping that rather than going with the "safe bets" that it tends to hug to its bosom, be they bigger names or studio efforts, it goes with a true acting extravaganza.
Lyne's entire cast has melded together to bring adultery in all its compromising positions to the audience, and in the process has perhaps allowed us all to think twice before we leap into what we might have thought was nothing more than like "taking a pottery class."
Slick, commercial British director whose background in advertising always guarantees a glossy sheen to his films. Made his debut in 1980 with Foxes before scoring big hits with such films as Flashdance, 9 1/2 Weeks, Fatal Attraction and Indecent Proposal, all of which were controversial at the time but now seem distinctly ordinary. More interesting are Lyne's less obviously commercial projects - the frightening, hallucinatory Jacob's Ladder, a sensitive adaptation of Lolita, and the relationship drama Unfaithful.