Well, they’ll always have Deep Water. Since Ben Affleck and Ana De Armas broke up in early 2021, we’ve heard little about the hotly anticipated, though depressingly cool, romantic drama.
Directed by old hand Adrian Lyne (Fatal Attraction, Indecent Proposal), Affleck plays Vic, a software developer responsible, inexplicably, for the United States’ civilian-slaying drone program. De Armas is Melinda, a stunted housewife who misses the freedom of the old days, or something. Most importantly, in contrast to rational Vic, Melinda can never seem to keep a lid on her feelings. The erotic thriller is by no means a genre packed with feminist representation, but even Deep Water feels like a step backwards. Less femme fatale, more femme banal.
This might all be more excusable if Deep Water had a memorable look. It doesn’t. With some near-amateur direction and a visual style less imaginative than some of the real-life couple’s paparazzi photos, it’s the kind of movie you expect to win Razzies, if they still chose the right movies. Director Lyne opts for a Miami Vice-style blue-grey tone, an overt attempt to evoke the ice-cold scorn of Patricia Highsmith’s original 1957 novel. Instead of injecting Deep Water with some mise-en-scene, however, all it does is suck out the little life this film has.
With a promising supporting cast including Tracey Letts, Jacob Elordi and Lil Rel Howery, we’ve got good reason to expect more than mediocrity.
Howery gets a couple of tonally odd buddy scenes he’s become so reliable for, albeit stretching even his now-trademark incredulity as Melinda’s public affairs continue.
But Letts is the most surprising: a formidable actor elsewhere, aspiring screenwriter Lionel (yes) is a formless, dull character. And as Vic’s main foil while his marriage to Melinda unravels in plain sight, Lionel is utterly forgettable.
Seemingly Affleck and De Armas have realised Deep Water is a whiff, cancelling its cinematic release and distributing the film via streaming services only. There has been no press tour. With the embargo raising at 9am on a Monday morning (4am in New York), we should be less surprised. Those of us expecting more from a star-fuelled erotic thriller have been roundly disappointed.