Unfaithful (2002) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Scoop's comments in white:

People summarize Adrian Lyne by saying that he makes films about sex. Of course that's true (8 /12 Weeks, Lolita, Indecent Proposal, Fatal Attraction, e.g.), and some of his films have been sexy and lurid enough to score big at the box office, but the sensationalism implied by that characterization is misleading. More precisely, he really makes sensitive, thoughtful movies about the consequences of sex. He certainly doesn't glorify sex, but rather presents an old-fashioned moral view of it. Theoretically an act of joy between two partners, the impact of sex is often negative, and often spills out to many other people like wounded spouses, and children whose homes become broken. Theoretically a part of love, sex often gets in the way of love.

Sex is associated with darkness. There isn't a lot of sunshine, or even a lot of light in Lyne's films. Scenes generally take place indoors, or at night, or on sunless days. He loves glistening, reflective surfaces - glass, water, wet bodies.

I don't know how many times Lyne has retold the book of Genesis, but it is certainly his favorite theme. A couple is living in a situation as close to paradise as humans can get. There is no reason for them to change anything. But one or both of the partners is undone by some matter related to sex. Is there any doubt that the "apple" of paradise was symbolic of some sexual temptation?

For example:

  • In Fatal Attraction, Michael Douglas has the perfect life. He has money, a loving and beautiful family. A temptress (Glen Close) crosses his path, he is seduced, and his life is ruined forever. The effect on his life was even worse in the original cut of the film, in which Close committed suicide while framing Douglas for her "murder". In that original version, the film ended with Douglas carted off in cuffs, facing an airtight case.
  • In Indecent Proposal, Demi Moore and Woody Harrelson seem like the perfect couple except for a minor poverty problem, so Satan offers them a million bucks if Demi will spend the night with a certain Sundancey-lookin' old geezer. They take the money, but the consequences of this act ruin their lives.

Those are the most obvious Edenic parallels in Lyne films, but his other films tend to say the same thing in a different way. He reminds us that we humans have an overwhelming desire for the rapture of sexual liaisons, even though those trysts very often cause us pain far greater than the initial pleasure. Sex clouds our judgment. Sex casts us from Eden, and fills us with a certain post-Edenic sadness, an unspecific feeling that everything should have come out different. Better.

Lyne's images support the feeling that humans are filled with Original Sin, and long for the time before the fall. Consider the opening of Unfaithful. The imagery has already begun to evoke the post-Edenic sadness in the opening credits. A private dock stretches out into a fog-shrouded lake before sunrise. A small boat bangs back and forth against the dock, its normal mooring not sufficient for the unusual strength of the wind on this day. Using the same locales, the images could carry far different emotional baggage. The same lake at noon might be filled with kids swimming and dads fishing. The boat in the sunshine on a calm day would offer the promise of adventure for some boys, or a romantic ride for some lovers. This boat and this dock once held those satisfied people and this lake once carried their happy voices. But not this morning. Not today. Today there will be a change in paradise.

Enter the serpent, in the form of the wind. If not for the wind, the image of the small boat would be serene and calming to watch. If not for the wind, the 40ish mother of our blissful family unit would not be blown into the arms of an unbearably sexy foreign man in his 20s, and subsequently into his bed. Of course, one might argue that it was the fault of something supernatural that she did what she did. If not for that accursed wind and foul luck, she would have gone home to her husband. But, of course, the wind can only offer her the opportunity, just as Satan could only offer Eve the apple. It is up to the tempted to reject or accept the temptation.

Ah, that pesky free will.

The storyline starts out in perfect parallel to Fatal Attraction, except that this time it is the woman who strays. Diane Lane has the perfect life. She is obviously prosperous. Her husband is handsome and loving and totally unselfish. They are both great parents. Their son relates to them beautifully. Lane throws all that away for a few days of passion with a super hunk. I guess the point is that the sexual urges inside us are so powerful that we often seek dalliances, even when everything is nearly perfect already. How many times have you heard the old cliché, "show me the most perfect woman in the world, and I'll show you a guy who's already tired of her"? After all, in Eden everything was perfect, and it still wasn't good enough for us. Whether you are religious or not, the story of Eden and man's dismissal from paradise must ring true as an evocation of a tragic weakness in human nature. Religious people call it Original Sin, but even atheists must acknowledge that "original sin" is real, if perhaps a misnomer for a flaw in our nature. We have a strongly sexual  self-destructive streak that seems inherent to our race. Utopias never work for us, and it is often sex that poisons the apple. (Read the story of Pitcairn's Island for a perfect example.)

When Lyne sets up the plots in his movies, the situations begin by mirroring real life. How many of us have blown a good thing by giving in to a regrettable temptation? Almost all.

After the set-up phase, however, Lyne normally departs from reality. In real life, people like the Diane Lane character cheat, they get caught, they have arguments, they file for divorce, they wish it could be the way it was. From time to time, they think of how it all happened, and they are filled with sadness. Lyne could make movies in which that kind of humdrum everyday sadness permeates the characters, and they would be brilliant films, but they would not take in $50 million or more at the box office. They would open in eighteen theaters, garner glowing reviews, and disappear in two weeks without a trace. Lyne turns his films into blockbusters by making the consequences larger than life. Family pets die. Houses are violated while the owners are away. Small children are terrorized. People get murdered.

Unfaithful is no exception to the rule. If you or I found out that our wife was having such an affair, we'd either try to understand and work it out or we'd send her packing to her stud-boy. Richard Gere, as Lane's husband, doesn't quite react the same way. Any more would be spoiling.

DVD info from Amazon

  • Full-Length Audio Commentary by Director Adrian Lyne

  • Scene-Specific Actor's Commentary

  • 11 Deleted Scenes (Including Alternate Ending with optional Director's Commentary)

  • The Charlie Rose Show Interview with Richard Gere, Diane Lane, and Adrian Lyne

  • Behind-the-Scenes Featurette: An Affair to Remember

  • Cast Interviews

  • Widescreen anamorphic format

Although many people disparage his work as being obsessively sexual and excessively commercial, I believe that Lyne is a great filmmaker.

Although Lyne failed to capture Nabokov's great sense of humor, I think that he and his star (Jeremy Irons) caught perfectly the post-Edenic sadness of Lolita, and made Humbert's obsession completely understandable to the audience. In fact, although he seduces a very young girl who is his step-daughter, Humbert is a sympathetic character because of the overwhelming weight of his sadness, and the purity of his love. We understand, as he understands, that he simply has to pay the consequences for giving in to such a completely forbidden temptation.

Jacob's Ladder, the most obviously biblical of Lyne's movies (his Jezebel is named Jezebel), the least sexy, and probably the least commercial, is a very fine movie. When I speak of it, I do not hesitate to use the word "great", although that word often makes me uncomfortable. If I thought about it enough, I might list it in my Top 10 of the 1990's.

The retail DVD of Unfaithful has 11 deleted scenes and an alternate ending, which is essentially the same, albeit unambiguous.

If I am right - that Lyne is the cinema's official poet of the sadness we bring ourselves when we exercise poor judgment in sexual matters - then he got the ending that suited him.


  • We see several views of Lane's bare breasts as she reclines in a bubble bath. We see her bare butt as she leaves the tub
  • Lane shows her breasts in a scene where her lover removes her bra from behind.
  • She shows the side of her butt in two sex scenes.
Tuna's comments in yellow:

Unfaithful (2002) is a love triangle story, this time with the suburban housewife taking a younger, and Richard Gere playing the over the hill stodgy cuckolded husband. Nice to see that someone recognized that Gere is too old for romantic leads. Diane Lane is tired of housewife and mother, where her exciting life has her making bunny costumes for the school play, and soliciting donations for a school benefit auction. Gere owns some sort of business, and Lane comes third in his priorities after work and their son.

Lane is in New York on a very blustery day, and literally runs into handsome young book dealer Olivier Martinez, actually knocking him over and landing on top of him. The spark is there from their first look at each other, but it takes two more visits before she has the nerve to do it with him. He quickly becomes her lunchtime habit, and the sex scenes between them, while not very explicit, absolutely sizzle. When Gere finds out, he confronts Martinez, with disastrous results. Without writing a spoiler, the ending is ambiguous.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: about two and a half stars. Ebert 3/4, Berardinelli 2.5/4, filmcritic.com 2/5, Entertainment Weekly A-.

  • UK consensus: two stars. Daily Mail 4/10, Daily Telegraph 7/10, Independent 6/10, The Guardian 2/10, The Observer 8/10, The Times 5/10, Evening Standard 6/10, The Sun 6/10, The Express 6/10, The Mirror 6/10, BBC 3/5

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 6.7/10; Yahoo voters a similiar 3.5/5
  • with their dollars: It was a moderate hit. Budget $50 million, domestic gross $52 million, which is pretty good when you consider that it opened against Spiderman. I think it is sure to make money after foreign revenues, retail product sales, and rentals.


IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, Scoop says, "C+. It did fairly well at the box office, but it's essentially an art movie. Quite a good one." Tuna says, "I enjoyed the first two acts, but the film lost its way, and turned into a pseudo crime thriller. Yet, it looks good, and Lane and Martinez both shine in their roles. C."

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