Written by: Zach Helm & Sam Levinson
Starring: Ben Affleck, Ana de Armas, Tracy Letts, Grace Jenkins, Dash Mihok
The loss of the erotic thriller has been one of the casualties of a moviegoing public more forgiving of brutal violence than depictions of sex. This gets seen even more explicitly in the sexless superhero movies filled with plenty of gruesome violence. It makes for the sparse occurrences one worth seeking out, but in the case of Deep Water, it forgot to be the two aspects of its genre title: thrilling and erotic.
Melinda (Ana de Armas) and Vic Van Allen (Ben Affleck) live a comfortable life filled with partying on the weekends, but Melinda appears to be hooking up with men she claims to be “friends with.” As the more embarrassing it gets for Vic to see his wife throw herself around other men in public, a growing tension festers between them in some demented ways.
Watching Deep Water becomes an experience of what it’s like to parse through an utterly confusing story. Helmed by the person who brought the world Fatal Attraction, a level of steaminess would be expected especially when teaming up with the actors found in this feature. However, it just leaves a level of puzzling behavior without context or any narrative flow thus taking away from the very sparse erotic or thrilling moments offered.
Adapted from a novel, this story becomes all about the rising tension and the awkwardness of a society of wealthy individuals where a social norm continually gets broken. Infidelity may be frowned upon but certainly happens rampantly in secret. The fact Melinda is so incredibly overt in her infidelity with younger men to the point where she invites them over to have what appears to be weekly parties with her and her husband’s friends feels a bit grotesque. It would be one thing for this to be done out in public but to bring the boy toys in the same places where her husband and friends want to have a good time is a different level. It almost begs the question of the type of pull Melinda has on these men as I cannot imagine being in their shoes and navigating that extreme awkwardness. Like, I get it, it’s Ana de Armas but my goodness these guys are walking into fires for her in such an anxiety-inducing manner.
This all leads to what will occur when Vic finally loses his cool and decides to confront it. The result leaves plenty to be desired as so much gets inferred and only later on does confirmation arrive. In the attempts to be thrilling, this feature just moves at such a stagnant pace and with no real momentum to it. It thus just becomes about waiting to see who the next guy will be who Melinda brings around and how it will further deteriorate the marriage she has with Vic.
This does not get exploration in most erotic thrillers, but the muddled nature of the motivation of Melinda as a character and the psyche of Vic moving forward just leaves the audience in the dark of what occurs. None of this receives any assistance when the character of Don Wilson (Tracy Letts) gets introduced to the story as a skeptic of Vic. It all just gets completely schlocky as it goes barrelling towards the end, which just happens without any real build-up to such a hilarious degree. The movie concludes and it left me thinking the whole thing was a practical joke, but no, this was all done in serious earnestness.
With Ben Affleck sleeping through most of this film, the weight of the feature laid on Ana de Armas shoulders, and she certainly did her best. It feels like this continually gets said about her recent projects following what she accomplished in Blade Runner 2049 and Knives Out. More recently, she has done her best to elevate shoddy material and she can only do so much. She came to play in this role, capturing the chaotic nature of Melinda and exemplifying exactly why all of the men involved in her web would want to stick around even if it gets completely messy. Seriously, I’m still hung up on how these boy toys would willingly enter the lion’s den of being around her friends and family while she displays plenty of PDA all over them. Ana de Armas did her part, but apparently, no one else came to play.
Deep Water, instead of bringing back erotic thrillers starring big names, it does the genre absolutely no favors. It carries no momentum, no thrills, no real sex appeal other than Ana de Armas, which ultimately leaves this final product to be middling as a result. At the very least it could have some fun with this whole premise, but instead, it becomes quite the slog to get through, which truly makes it quite the disappointment.