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Review: Sexually charged 'Unfaithful' falls flat

Movie hampered by Gere

By Paul Tatara
CNN Reviewer

(CNN) -- How can an actor who attempts to convey every conceivable emotion by quickly blinking his eyes maintain a career for 25 years?

"Unfaithful," yet another soon-to-be-forgotten Richard Gere vehicle, is an overheated melodrama about a woman who strays from her monotonous husband, only to force him into a nasty situation that cries out for multiple bouts of eye-blinking.

Surprisingly, Gere dwells in the background for much of the picture, while Diane Lane, as his sexually supercharged wife, repeatedly takes off her blouse and strips down to her panties. Lane's near-obsessive aversion to clothing, while beneath her significant abilities as an actress, is the only commendable move in the entire film.

Gere is cast as a hard-working New York suburbanite named Edward Sumner, although it's a stretch to say he actually "portrays" him. Edward and his beautiful wife, Connie (Lane), seemingly have it all: a spacious house, lots of money, a cute little son (Erik Per Sullivan), and a cute little dog (just some dog).

Unfortunately, their comfortable existence is starting to wear on Connie. Getting her son off to school in the morning seems to be her most pressing duty, and Edward is dull as a bag of peat moss; even his sweaters are bland.

Things pick up considerably, however, when Connie literally bumps into someone on a windy Soho street.

Churning torrents



RESOURCES All about Richard Gere All about Diane Lane 

The wind storm, which takes place during the opening credits, is the first clue that director Adrian Lyne (and screenwriters Alvin Sargent and William Broyles) won't be burdening us with subtlety. Filmmakers love to overstate the petty annoyances of living in Manhattan, but this is the first time it's ever been suggested that the skies are a churning torrent of confetti and newspapers. The wind blows so hard, and there's so much debris flying around, Lane staggers down the street like a wino; she even gets bopped on the head by an inflatable zebra.

Soon enough, she's blown smack into Paul Martel (Olivier Martinez), a sexy French book dealer who wears much nicer sweaters than her husband does. Connie falls and cuts her knee. Paul, the smoothie, offers to bandage it for her in his nearby apartment.

It's not hard to imagine where this is heading, but Lyne drags things out like he's getting paid by the minute. It takes several clandestine meetings before Connie finally wraps her legs around Paul, and then the relationship continues in Playboy Channel mode for days on end.

Lane must have decided she wanted to show off her very nice body. She and Martinez attack each other at a wide variety of angles, and in various states of undress. In one scene, they copulate in a restaurant bathroom while Connie's prim, clueless friends (including Kate Burton) sit in the dining area sipping coffee.

Diane Lane, Richard Gere
Diane Lane and Richard Gere star in "Unfaithful."  

The sex reaches a peak level of foolishness, however, when they go at it in an otherwise empty movie theater while Jacques Tati's "Mr. Hulot's Holiday" plays on the screen. That's when you know you've got a hyperactive libido.

Into the void

You won't have any problem watching this, of course. Martinez is a first-class specimen with great abdominal muscles, and Lane, as already stated, is gorgeous and participates with gusto. She even manages to lend Connie a bit of depth; there's a crying jag on a crowded passenger train that clearly issues from her heart rather than her loins.

But it's obvious you're getting too many versions of the same scene, regardless of how hot and heavy, when you actually start wondering what the hell happened to Gere.

It might ruin some people's fun to describe what Edward does when he finds out about Paul. Let's just say it involves a couple shots of vodka and an over-enthusiastic way of showing a person a large snowglobe. Until that point, Gere never seems anything more than a vaguely interested visitor. Edward is supposed to be something of a stick-in-the-mud, but that doesn't mean the character has to be completely void of facial muscles.

The audience when I saw this one was chuckling at all the wrong times, and that's a bad sign when they're supposed to be having a collective heart attack. Don't worry, though. In ten or twelve years, Gere will re-team with Julia Roberts, the movie will make $100-million, and a gaggle of number-worshiping studio executives will convince themselves that he had something to do with it.

"Unfaithful" contains a very bloody incident that's decently staged by Lyne, and there's tons of sex and nudity. There hasn't been this much underwear pushed in our faces since Madonna got married.




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