Unfaithful (2002)

The Art of Seduction-Beware the man who quotes poetry!

In Unfaithful Connie Sumner (Diane Lane) is married to busy, distracted husband, Edward (Richard Gere). He owns a security company which occupies a great deal of his time, and she is the housewife who maintains the beautiful house in the country, and juggles such stressful issues as fundraising, and car-pooling their only child.

On a shopping expedition in New York, circumstances lead Connie to bump into Paul Martel–literally. He is young, looks like a male model, and cashing in on his French accent, he invites Connie into his bachelor lair. Connie is a bit naive–that’s obvious, but even she cannot completely ignore the flagrant messages Paul sends her way. Paul, who claims to be a bookseller, offers to give Connie a small souvenir of their chance encounter. When he directs Connie to a particular book shelf, to a specific book, gives her the page number to turn to, and then starts quoting poetry, it’s quite clear that Paul isn’t quite the innocuous bookseller he claims to be, but rather he is a practiced seducer. But it’s too much too fast, and Connie exits–runs is a closer description.

Connie can’t forget Paul, and soon thoughts of his physicality invade her everyday domestic life. Connie returns to Paul with some flimsy pretense to explain their renewed contact. A game of cat and mouse ensues, and by degrees, Connie begins her slippery slide to adultery. She is too tantalized and mesmerised by Paul to think of little else, ignores all the warning signs, and doesn’t stop to seriously consider the consequences of her actions. Soon it becomes obvious to her husband (his area of expertise is security, remember) that Connie is distracted by something–or someone.

This was the best role I have ever seen Richard Gere play, and Diane Lane (one of my favourites) was simply incredible. This film really does a spectacular job of laying the foundations of human nature with the three main characters, Edward, Connie and Paul. Connie has everything a woman is supposed to want–a loving devoted husband, financial security, a beautiful home etc., but she’s on a tedious, boring, treadmill, and she has the looks, means and the time to get in trouble. Edward is busy–too busy–providing all those goodies for Connie. He makes the mistake of being a husband and a provider rather than a lover, and while he vacates this role, Paul is happy to take it. The film displays the culture of adultery unflinchingly. Connie discovers that small attentions from a complete stranger are seductive and outweigh complete devotion from her spouse. There is an evitability in this film which parallels the inevitability of Connie’s submission to Paul’s practiced, subtle assaults. While the film doesn’t make any overt moral statements against adultery, nonetheless, it does illustrate the incredible pain, futility, and destruction suffered by all those involved, and the film remains one of the best statements I’ve ever seen on the subject. Unfaithful is a remake of the Claude Chabrol film, La Femme Infidele, and while I liked the French version, this is a rare instance in which I prefer the remake. From director Adrian Lyne.

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