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Deep Water 2022 film rview
Image: Amazon Prime Video

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Deep Water is an Underwhelming Comeback Effort from Adrian Lyne 

The Love Story is Never the Whole Story

SXSW 2022: Deep Water Review

They say they don’t make erotic thrillers anymore, and it’s true, the genre has all but disappeared from multiplexes for the past 15 or 20 years. But now we have what’s touted as the return of the high-profile erotic thriller, with Deep Water. The results are somewhat underwhelming, mostly because it’s more of a psychological thriller than an erotic one. 

The film boasts a literary pedigree, a former tabloid couple as the two stars, a strong supporting cast, and direction by the master of the genre, Adrian Lyne, who made 9 1/2 Weeks, Fatal Attraction, and Indecent Proposal. Lyne, who is 82 years old, is directing for the first time since Unfaithful, 20 years ago. Another master of the erotic thriller, Basic Instinct‘s Paul Verhoeven, is also still working in his 80s but hasn’t returned to the genre in a while. 

Alas, Deep Water — which was in development for nearly a decade, was shot mostly before the pandemic, and has been on the shelf for a while — is heading straight to Hulu. And also, it’s not all that great. But it does have a shot of becoming a camp classic. 

Deep Water is based on a Patricia Highsmith novel from the 1950s and was adapted by the unlikely duo of Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium director Zach Helm and Euphoria creator Sam Levinson. 

Image: Amazon Prime Video

Aside from an appearance by the show’s jock supervillain Jacob Elordi, Deep Water doesn’t have much in common with Euphoria, but a bit more with Malcolm and Marie, the infamous Levinson-directed film that also featured the relationship between a full-of-himself man and a tempestuous, out of control woman. The couple’s arguments in the two movies are even quite similar. 

The concept is pretty simple: Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas play a married couple, Vic and Melinda. The love is clearly gone, she’s taken a series of lovers, and he sleeps not in the bedroom but rather in a garage with strange, nontraditional pets. Amid their frequent arguments, augmented with occasional makeup sex, Melinda frequently gets drunk and has affairs, with men who just happen to disappear soon afterward.

Yes, almost a decade after David Fincher’s Gone Girl, it’s another film featuring a war of wills between Ben Affleck and his lovely wife- but it’s completely different. In that film, Affleck’s character was named Nick, and here, he’s Vic. 

Deep Water
Image: Amazon Prime Video

(Affleck and de Armas dated around the time of the film’s production but have since split; movies in which he co-stars with a famous ex-girlfriend have been a  theme throughout Affleck’s career.) 

Elordi and Finn Whitlock are among the unfortunate suitors, while Tracy Letts plays a local writer who’s clearly on to what’s going on. Grace Jenkins plays the couple’s young daughter. She’s very funny, but this is not a film where cute-kid antics are a tonal fit in any way whatsoever. 

Possibly the biggest failure of the film is a listless performance from Affleck. In Gone Girl, his lunkheaded aloofness was perfect for the part he was playing, but here he’s supposed to be wily, and that’s not really a fit for what the role requires. de Armas fares better, continuing a recent hot streak. 

Nevertheless, in a world where Gone Girl already exists, Deep Water is somewhat unnecessary. 

  • Stephen Silver

South by Southwest celebrates the convergence of the interactive, film, and music industries. Follow our coverage all month!

Written By

Stephen Silver is a journalist and film critic based in the Philadelphia area. He is the co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle and a Rotten Tomatoes-listed critic since 2008, and his work has appeared in New York Press, Philly Voice, The Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Tablet, The Times of Israel, and RogerEbert.com. In 2009, he became the first American journalist to interview both a sitting FCC chairman and a sitting host of "Jeopardy" on the same day.

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