Reel Reviews | Deep Water

By Charles Kirkland Jr.

Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas get into some dangerous and very adult games in, Deep Water.

Vic (Ben Affleck) is an affluent businessman and father to an adorable daughter, Trixie (Grace Jenkins), and husband to a not-so-adorable, yet incredibly sexy wife, Melinda (Ana de Armas).  Melinda, in full control of herself, flaunts her sexuality (and promiscuity) for everyone to see including her husband.  Despite his best attempts to rein in her wife, nothing seems to stop her from expressing herself inappropriately.  So what does a guy have to do?

Written by Zach Helm and Sam Levinson. Deep Water is the latest movie adaptation of a novel by Pamela Highsmith (The Talented Mr. Ripley, Strangers on a Train).   It stars Affleck, de Armas, and Jenkins with Dash Mihok, Tracy Letts, Lil Rel Howery, Kristen Connolly, and Finn Wittrock.  Deep Water is directed by Adrian Lyne.

Lyne, who directed some of the most memorable erotic thrillers of all time, returns to the director’s chair after a twenty-year hiatus. Adrian Lyne really knows how to direct this type of film.  While this film has nothing near the sexuality of 9½ Weeks and none of the horror of Fatal Attraction, it is just as twisty and unpredictable as Indecent Proposal and Unfaithful.

For those who are fans of the late Highsmith’s work, Deep Water the movie has a very different ending from the book and leaves one important detail out of the story.  In the book, Vic and Melinda have an agreement to stay together for the purposes of keeping up appearances.  As a result, Vic has given Melinda permission to have affairs outside of the marriage.  In the movie, there is no sign of agreement between the two.  While the affairs that Melinda has in the book are an annoyance, in the movie, they are torturous to Vic making it so much more frustrating to the viewers.  This one change serves to ramp up the tension between Vic and Melinda, making Melinda seem very trampy and mean thus attempting to validate Vic’s emotions and actions (or at least justify them).

This movie is the perfect vehicle for Ben Affleck as he doubles down on the culture of smarminess he has cultivated in recent films like Gone Girl.  From the beginning of the film, Affleck’s Vic is detached but at the same time angered.  He is desperate to the brink of despairing and yet resolute and resigning.  He is trapped in this game that his wife is playing and Ben Affleck perfectly makes us feel it.

The real star performance is that of Ana de Armas.  Having played the truth-telling innocent in Knives Out and then the strong and confident agent in No Time To Die, de Armas completely explodes the limits of her range by playing a super-sexy, manipulative vamp in this film.  It is almost impossible to recognize her in this role because she has evolved so entirely from her last performance.  She is definitely a supremely-talented actress.  The audience can’t stop watching and hating her.

The breakout performance belongs to little Grace Jenkins.  Playing the daughter Trixie, Jenkins is so smart and independent in the film that she deserves the end credit scene displaying her “talents.”  Her role of open, innocent honesty is the perfect thread holding everything together in the film.  She is a welcome addition to the Highsmith’s story.

At the end of the day, Deep Water, rated R for sexual content, nudity, language, and some violence is not on the same level as some of Adrian Lyne’s previous work.  It is doubtful that this film will have the cult following that any of his other work had either.  This is probably why it is being released on a streaming platform rather than movie theaters.  But this film is very suspenseful, deliberate in its pacing, and an interesting exercise in voyeurism.

Deep Water is available on Hulu on March 18. 

Grade:  B+