Deep Water is a Hulu Original film directed by Adrian Lyne and written by Zach Helm & Sam Levinson, based on the novel of the same name by Patricia Highsmith. Vic Van Allen (Ben Affleck) seems to have a perfect life: He’s married to his beautiful wife Melinda (Ana de Armas). His work developing military software has allowed him to retire and live with Melinda and their daughter Trixie in an affluent neighborhood. However, Melinda has grown bored of their relationship and starts to have affairs with other men. This doesn’t go unnoticed by Vic, and soon Melinda’s lovers start meeting a grisly end.
On paper, Deep Water had all the right ingredients for success. Lyne is the director who essentially defined the look and feel of the erotic thriller, helming classics in the genre including Fatal Attraction and Indecent Proposal. Highsmith’s novels have proven to be fertile ground for adaptation — see The Talented Mr. Ripley and Carol. And it boasted an impressive pair of leads in Affleck and de Armas, who also started dating around the time of filming. However, none of these elements click as well as they should.
For starters, Lyne’s direction lacks the thrill of his usual efforts, thanks to some insanely confusing editing from Andrew Mondshein and Tim Squyres. Scenes often abruptly shift just as they start building up to a resolution, which takes all the air out of those scenes in the process. A key example comes when Vic confronts Melinda about her affairs, and she taunts him to the point where he grabs her by the arms…and then the scene shifts to a pool party being held by their neighbors. Compare this with the infamous “boiled bunny” scene in Fatal Attraction; the rising music and the intercutting between Beth Gallagher finding the rabbit in the pot and little Ellen running to find the rabbit makes for a masterclass in tension. Lyne seems to depend on Marco Beltrami’s score to create moments of tension, and although Beltrami makes good use of horns to signify the chaos descending into the Van Allen’s lives, good music can only take you so far when setting a scene.
There’s also the fact that half of the film’s central couple seems to be totally checked out. For a man who’s learning that his wife is fooling around on him, Affleck lacks the energy that’s defined his usual performances. There’s none of the jocularity from The Tender Bar, none of the passion he brought to The Town, and definitely none of the rage that underlined his performances as Batman and Daredevil. It gets to the point where audiences will ask, “What exactly does his wife see in him?” followed by “no wonder she cheats on him if he’s this passionless” and “how did Affleck and de Armas ever carry on a relationship.” It doesn’t help that Affleck is outshined by most of the supporting cast, including Lil Rel Howrey, who manages to bring some humor to the proceedings.
de Armas, on the other hand, steals every scene she’s in. Her take on Melinda is a total 180 from her roles in Knives Out and No Time To Die. Every word she tosses toward Affleck is laced with venom, from accusations that he wants to have sex with their new neighbor’s wife (which is… somewhat ironic, given her actions in the film) and more or less saying he’d commit suicide if he ever lost her. Melinda also flaunts her sexuality like a weapon, drawing in a number of suitors and dangling them in front of Vic; de Armas’ accent draws the viewers in, leaving them hanging on her every word. You can definitely see why she was approached to play Marilyn Monroe since she has similarly magnetic qualities.
Deep Water falters as a romantic thriller, no thanks to whiplash editing and a lack of chemistry between its two stars. I’d suggest watching it based on de Armas’ performance alone; however, if you’re looking for a real thrill, check out fellow Hulu thriller Fresh. That film actually understands that it’s meant to be scary, and both of its leads bring their all.
Deep Water will be available to stream on Hulu on February 18, 2022.
- Rating - 6/106/10
Deep Water falters as a romantic thriller, no thanks to whiplash editing and a lack of chemistry between its two stars. I’d suggest watching it based on de Armas’ performance alone; however, if you’re looking for a real thrill, check out fellow Hulu thriller Fresh.
Collier “CJ” Jennings is a freelance reporter and film critic living in Seattle. He uses his love of comics and film/TV to craft reviews and essays on genre projects. He is also a host on Into the Spider-Cast.