Unfaithful (2002 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Adrian Lyne|
|Produced by||Adrian Lyne|
G. Mac Brown
|Screenplay by||Alvin Sargent|
William Broyles Jr.
|Based on||The Unfaithful Wife|
by Claude Chabrol
|Music by||Jan A. P. Kaczmarek|
|Edited by||Anne V. Coates|
Fox 2000 Pictures
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$119 million|
Unfaithful is a 2002 American thriller drama film directed and produced by Adrian Lyne and starring Richard Gere, Diane Lane, Olivier Martinez, Erik Per Sullivan, Chad Lowe and Dominic Chianese. It was adapted by Alvin Sargent and William Broyles Jr. from the 1969 French film The Unfaithful Wife (La Femme infidèle) by the noted director Claude Chabrol. It tells the story of a couple living in suburban New York City whose marriage goes dangerously awry when the wife indulges in an adulterous affair with a stranger she encounters by chance.
Unfaithful grossed $52 million in North America and a total of $119,137,784 worldwide. Despite mixed reviews overall, Lane received much praise for her performance. She won awards for best actress from the National Society of Film Critics and New York Film Critics, and was nominated for a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Actress.
Edward (Richard Gere) and Connie Sumner (Diane Lane) live in Westchester County, New York with their eight-year-old son, Charlie (Erik Per Sullivan). While shopping, Connie runs into stranger Paul Martel (Olivier Martinez) and scrapes her knees, accepting Paul’s offer to treat her injuries at his Soho apartment. Uncomfortable with his advances, Connie leaves, but not before Paul gives her a book of Persian poetry. Connie tells Edward what happened, and he suggests they buy Paul a thank-you gift.
Finding Paul’s phone number inside the book, Connie calls him and is invited over. Paul again flirts with Connie, who leaves despite their mutual attraction, but visits again. After sharing a dance, Connie stops herself and leaves, but returns to retrieve her coat, and Paul sweeps her into bed. Both thrilled and guilty, Connie uses her work for a charity event as an excuse to continue to visit Paul, raising Edward’s suspicion. Noticing Connie readying herself to go into the city with brand new shoes and lingerie, Edward asks her to meet him for lunch, but she says she has a salon appointment. At his office, Edward calls the salon and confirms Connie was lying.
Edward is devastated when a private investigator, Frank Wilson (Dominic Chianese), provides pictures of Connie and Paul together. As Connie's visits with Paul become more frequent, she is late to pick up Charlie from school and realizes she can no longer carry on the affair. After an unsuccessful phone call to Paul, Connie decides to end things in person, and spots him walking with another woman. Connie confronts him, but their argument ends in a tryst in his building’s stairwell. She leaves out the back, narrowly missing Edward outside. He confronts Paul, revealing that he is Connie's husband, and Paul lets him into his apartment. As they discuss Connie, Edward is stunned to find a snow globe he had given her, which Paul explains she had gifted to him. Reeling, Edward snaps and fractures Paul’s skull with the snow globe, killing him instantly.
Wrapping the body in a rug and cleaning up evidence, Edward hears Connie leave a message for Paul saying she must end their affair. Edward erases all the answering machine and leaves with Paul's body in the trunk of his car, then joins his wife at Charlie's school play. He dumps Paul's body in a landfill while Connie is asleep, but is plagued by memories of the murder.
NYPD detectives arrive at the Sumner home while Edward is at work, explaining to Connie that Paul's estranged wife has reported him missing, and they found Connie's name and phone number on his desk. Connie claims she barely knows Paul, and the detectives return a week later to tell Connie and Edward that Paul's body has been discovered. Connie lies that she met Paul at a Juilliard fundraiser which, to her surprise, Edward corroborates. When Connie denies being in Soho recently, the police reveal she had received a parking ticket in front of Paul's building, and she claims to have forgotten about meeting friends at a Soho café. Later, Connie finds the investigator's photos of her and Paul, realizing Edward knows about the affair. During a party at their home, Connie notices that the snow globe has been returned to their collection. Sharing a meaningful look with Edward, she realizes he murdered Paul.
They argue, and Edward says that he wanted to kill her instead of Paul. In the days that follow, Connie discovers a hidden compartment in the snow globe containing a photograph of her, Edward, and an infant Charlie, with a loving anniversary message. As Connie burns the photographs of her and Paul, Edward says he will turn himself in, but Connie objects, saying they will find a way to move on, and they appear to return to a normal life together.
One night, Edward stops at a red light with Charlie asleep in the backseat. Connie whispers that they could leave the country and assume new identities, and Edward agrees, consoling her as she cries. It is revealed that Edward has stopped the car near a police station.
- Richard Gere as Edward Sumner
- Diane Lane as Constance "Connie" Sumner
- Olivier Martinez as Paul Martel
- Erik Per Sullivan as Charlie Sumner
- Chad Lowe as Bill Stone
- Dominic Chianese as Frank Wilson
- Erich Anderson as Bob Gaylord
- Michelle Monaghan as Lindsay
- Kate Burton as Tracy
- Margaret Colin as Sally
- Željko Ivanek as Detective Dean
- Michael Emerson as Josh
- Damon Gupton as Other Businessman
- Joseph Badalucco Jr. as Train Conductor
According to actor Gere, an early draft of the screenplay, which he read several years ago, presented the Sumners as suffering from a dysfunctional sexual relationship. It gave Connie some justification for having an affair. According to the actor and to director Lyne, the studio wanted to change the storyline so that the Sumners had a bad marriage with no sex, to create greater sympathy for Connie. Both men opposed the change; Lyne in particular felt that the studio's suggestions would have robbed the film of any drama: "I wanted two people who were perfectly happy. I loved the idea of the totally arbitrary nature of infidelity." The Sumners' relationship was rewritten as a good marriage, with her affair the result of a chance meeting.
During pre-production, the producers received a video-taped audition from Olivier Martinez, who was selected for Paul. His character was portrayed as French once Martinez was cast. Lyne said, "I think it helps one understand how Connie might have leapt into this affair—he's very beguiling, doing even ordinary things." Once cast in the role, Martinez, with Lyne's approval, changed some of his dialogue and the scene in which he first seduces Lane's character, while she is looking at a book in Braille. According to Martinez, "The story that was invented before was much more sensual, erotic and clear."
Lyne cast Lane in the role of Constance after seeing her in the film, A Walk on the Moon. He felt that the actress "breathes a certain sexuality. But she's sympathetic, and I think so many sexy women tend to be tough and hard at the same time." Lyne also wanted Gere and Lane to gain weight in order to portray the comfort of a middle-age couple. In particular, he wanted Gere to gain 30 pounds and left donuts in the actor's trailer every morning.
Lyne asked director of photography Peter Biziou, with whom he made 9½ Weeks, to shoot Unfaithful. After reading the script, Biziou felt that the story was appropriate for the classic 1.85:1 aspect ratio because it "so often has two characters working together in the frame". During pre-production, Biziou, Lyne and production designer Brian Morris used a collection of still photographs as style references. These included photos from fashion magazines and shots by prominent photographers.
Initially, the story was set against snowy exteriors, but this idea was rejected early on. Principal photography started on March 22, 2001 and wrapped on June 1, 2001 with Lyne shooting in continuity whenever possible. The film was primarily shot in New York City. During the windstorm sequence where Connie first meets Paul, it rained and Lyne used the overcast weather conditions for the street scenes. The director also preferred shooting practical interiors on location so that the actors could "feel an intimate sense of belonging", Biziou recalls. The cinematographer also used natural light as much as possible.
At times, Lyne's directing took its toll on the cast and crew. In a scene taking place in an office, the director pumped it full of smoke, an effect that "makes the colors less contrasty, more muted". According to Biziou, "The texture it gives helps differentiate and separate various density levels of darkness farther back in frame". The smoke was piped in for 18 to 20 hours a day and Gere remembers, "Our throats were being blown out. We had a special doctor who was there almost all the time who was shooting people up with antibiotics for bronchial infections". Lane acquired an oxygen bottle in order to survive the rigorous schedule.
The film has many explicit sex scenes, including a tryst in a restaurant bathroom and a passionate exchange in an apartment building hallway. Lyne's repeated takes for these scenes were demanding for the actors, especially for Lane, who had to be emotionally and physically fit for the scenes. To prepare for the initial love scene between Paul and Constance, Lyne had the actors watch clips from Fatal Attraction, Five Easy Pieces, and Last Tango in Paris. Lane and Martinez would also talk over the scenes in his trailer beforehand. Once on the set, they felt uncomfortable until several takes in. She said, "My comfort level with it just had to catch up quickly if I wanted to be the actress to play it." Martinez was not comfortable with nudity. Lane said that Lyne would often shoot a whole magazine of film, "so one take was as long as five takes. By the end, you're physically and emotionally shattered."
Lane had not met Martinez before filming, and they did not get to know each other well during the shoot, mirroring the relationship between their characters. A full four weeks of the schedule was dedicated to the scenes in Paul's loft, which was located on the third floor of a six-story building located on Greene Street. Biziou often used two cameras for the film's intimate scenes to reduce the number of takes that had to be shot.
Lyne shot five different endings to Unfaithful based on his experiences with Fatal Attraction, whose initial ending was rejected by the test audience. According to Lyne, he had some debate with the 20th Century Fox officials, who wanted to "make the marriage gray, the sex bad. I fought that. I tried to explore the guilt, the jealousy—that's what I'm interested in." The studio did not like the film's "enigmatic" ending, which they felt failed to punish crimes committed by the characters. It imposed a "particularly jarring 'Hollywood' final line", which angered Gere.
Following negative reactions from test audiences, the studio reinstated the original ending; a few weeks before the film was to open in theaters, Lyne asked Gere and Lane to return to Los Angeles for re-shoots of the ending. Lyne claimed that the new ending was more ambiguous than the original and was the original one by screenwriter Alvin Sargent. Lyne also thought the new ending "would be more interesting and provoke more discussion," saying he intentionally "wanted to do a more ambiguous ending, which treats the audience much more intelligently."
Unfaithful opened on May 10, 2002 in 2,617 theaters and grossed US$14 million with an average of $5,374 per screen. It made $52 million in North America and a total of $119 million worldwide, well above its $50 million budget.
The film received mixed reviews, though Diane Lane earned widespread praise for her performance. It currently has a rating of 50% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 167 reviews, with an average rating of 5.7/10. The consensus reads, "Diane Lane shines in the role, but the movie adds nothing new to the genre and the resolution is unsatisfying."
CNN film critic Paul Tatara wrote, "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." Entertainment Weekly critic Owen Gleiberman awarded the film an "A-" grade and praised Lane for delivering "the most urgent performance of her career", writing that she "is a revelation. The play of lust, romance, degradation, and guilt on her face is the movie's real story." Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote, "Instead of pumping up the plot with recycled manufactured thrills, it's content to contemplate two reasonably sane adults who get themselves into an almost insoluble dilemma." In the Los Angeles Times, the critic Kenneth Turan wrote, "The only performer who manages to get inside her character is Lane. Whether it's her initial half-distrustful tentativeness, her later sensual abandon or her never-ending ambivalence, Lane's Constance seems to be actually living the role in a way no one else matches, a way we can all connect to."
Stephen Holden in The New York Times praised the "taut, economical screenplay" that "digs into its characters' marrow (and into the perfectly selected details of domestic life) without wasting a word. That screenplay helps to ground a film whose visual imagination hovers somewhere between soap opera and a portentous pop surrealism." USA Today gave the film three-and-a-half stars out of four and Mike Clark wrote, "Diane Lane also reaches a new career plateau with her best performance since 1979's A Little Romance." In his review for The Washington Post, Stephen Hunter wrote, "In the end, Unfaithful leaves you dispirited and grumpy: All that money spent, all that talent wasted, all that time gone forever, and for what? It's an ill movie that bloweth no man to good." David Ansen, in his review for Newsweek, wrote, "Unfaithful shows what a powerful, sexy, smart filmmaker Lyne can be. It's a shame he substitutes the mechanics of suspense for the real suspense of what goes on between a man and a woman, a husband and a wife." Andrew Sarris, in his review for the New York Observer, wrote, "Ultimately Unfaithful is escapism in its purest form, and I am willing to experience it on that level, even though with all the unalloyed joy on display, there's almost no humor," and concluded that it was "one of the very few mainstream movies currently directed exclusively to grown-ups."
Awards and nominations
The studio campaign's theme consisted of what the studio called the film's "iconic scene": Constance recalling her first tryst with Paul as she takes a train home. According to Tom Rothman, chairman of Fox Filmed Entertainment, "That scene captured the power of her performance. It's what everyone talked about after they saw her." Four days before the New York Film Critics Circle's vote, Lane was given a career tribute by the Film Society of Lincoln Center. A day before that, Lyne held a dinner for the actress at the Four Seasons Hotel. Critics and award voters were invited to both. Lane won the National Society of Film Critics, the New York Film Critics Circle awards and was nominated for a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Actress. Entertainment Weekly ranked Unfaithful the 27th on their "50 Sexiest Movies Ever" list.
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