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
Erik Per Sullivan
|Music by||Jan A. P. Kaczmarek|
|Edited by||Anne Coates|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
Unfaithful is a 2002 American erotic thriller drama film directed by Adrian Lyne and starring Richard Gere, Diane Lane, Chad Lowe, Dominic Chianese and Olivier Martinez. It was adapted by Alvin Sargent and William Broyles Jr. from the French film The Unfaithful Wife (La Femme infidèle, 1968) by the noted director Claude Chabrol. It tells about 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 million 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.
Connie (Diane Lane) and Edward Sumner (Richard Gere) are a middle-aged couple who live in suburban New York City with their eight-year-old son Charlie (Erik Per Sullivan). Their marriage is solid and loving, but lacking intimacy. One day, Connie goes shopping for supplies for Charlie's ninth birthday party, where she is caught in a windstorm. As she seeks a taxi, she runs into a stranger (Olivier Martinez). They both fall and Connie scrapes her knees. The stranger offers Connie to treat her injuries in his apartment. The stranger introduces himself as Paul Martel, a 27-year-old Frenchman who buys and sells used books. Connie phones Charlie saying that she will be home soon, while Paul puts an ice pack on Connie's knee, which mildly startles her. When Paul makes small advances toward her, Connie becomes uncomfortable and decides to leave. Before doing so, Paul gives her a book of Persian poetry, Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam as a gift. Connie tells Edward the story, and he suggests they buy Paul "a bottle of cheap wine" as a thank you for helping her.
After Connie finds Paul's phone number in the book he gave her, she goes to a telephone booth at Grand Central Terminal and calls Paul to ask him for his address, but he invites her to stop over at his place for coffee instead. He shows Connie a book in Braille, and they share a moment where she closes her eyes as he pulls her hand across the text. Connie senses things are getting intimate, and excuses herself. While she is cleaning dishes, Connie is unable to stop thinking about Paul, and she visits his apartment with a bag of muffins. After Connie and Paul have a dance, she stops at some point and says she can't continue, and she abruptly leaves his apartment. When she returns moments later to retrieve her coat, Paul literally sweeps her off her feet and into his bedroom. While on a train ride home, Connie recalls what happened with her and Paul, where, despite some initial reluctance on her part, she gives into Paul's seduction and has sex with him. Connie uses her working at a charity event as an excuse to go visit Paul more frequently, but Edward finds holes in her stories when he speaks with mutual friends. Bill Stone (Chad Lowe), one of Edward's employees, catches a glimpse of Connie and Paul kissing in a restaurant and, after being fired, makes a remark to Edward hinting at the affair.
Connie begins buying more provocative clothing, including lingerie, to impress Paul. After Connie and Paul have sex in the bathroom of a cafe, Connie's friend Tracy (Kate Burton) tells the story of when she cheated on her husband with another man and how affairs always end horribly, which disturbs Connie. Edward is unable to let go of his suspicion, and he decides to hire private investigator Frank Wilson (Dominic Chianese) to follow Connie. Frank returns with pictures of Connie and Paul leaving a movie theatre, which devastates Edward. Connie's visits with Paul become more frequent to the point that she is late to pick up Charlie from school. Following this incident, she realizes she can no longer hurt her family for her own selfish needs, so she decides to call Paul, but immediately hangs up when Charlie unexpectedly walks into the kitchen. Connie decides to end the affair with Paul in person, but she spots him with another woman. After attacking Paul, their argument continues outside his apartment door, which ends in a tryst. At the same time, Edward is standing outside Paul's apartment building, planning to pay him a visit. Edward and Connie narrowly miss each other, where he is facing the wall of another building as Connie runs out to her car.
Edward goes to Paul's doorstep and confronts him, telling him he is Connie's husband. He is stunned to see a snow globe there, which he recognizes as his own gift to Connie for their anniversary. After Paul offers Edward some water as he suffers a panic attack, he hits Paul in the head with the snow globe, which causes a fracture that kills him. Edward cleans up the blood, wipes away his fingerprints and wraps Paul's body in a rug. Edward hears Connie leaving a message on Paul's answering machine that she must end the affair. Edward erases the message and leaves, putting the body in the trunk of his car, and dropping it off at a dump. Two police detectives arrive at the Sumner home. They explain that Paul's estranged wife had reported him missing and they had found Connie's phone number in his apartment. She claims to have met him only once. A week later, the detectives return and tell Connie that they found Paul's body. She becomes upset while repeating her earlier story, but Edward backs her up and adds that she never met Paul. Later that night, collecting Edward's clothes from the dry cleaner's, Connie finds Frank's photos and realizes that Edward knows about the affair. She concludes that he murdered Paul after noticing the snow globe has been returned to their home.
Connie and Edward argue over the situation and, out of anger and frustration, Edward says that he hates Connie and wanted to kill her instead of Paul. While looking underneath the snow globe, Connie discovers a hidden compartment containing a photograph of her, Edward, and an infant Charlie, with a loving anniversary message from Edward. As Connie is burning the photographs in the fireplace, Edward says he will turn himself in, but Connie objects, saying they will find a way to live with this and reminds him that no one else knows. The two then appear to go about living a normal married life buying art at an auction, attending their son's school play, and dancing. While driving home, with Charlie sleeping in the backseat, Edward stops the car at a red traffic signal. Connie looks at Edward and whispers to him that they could leave the country and get new identities, and Edward agrees to the idea. However, Connie then starts crying, realizing that Edward has made a decision and is sticking with it. After they embrace, the light turns green, but Edward does not drive forward and instead continues to console Connie who is visibly sad. The car is seen stopped at an intersection, where there is a police station right next to it, implying that Edward decided to turn himself in for Paul's murder.
- 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 Lindsey
- Kate Burton as Tracy
- Margaret Colin as Sally
- Željko Ivanek as Detective Dean
- Michael Emerson as Josh
- 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."
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 49% on Rotten Tomatoes. 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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- Unfaithful at Box Office Mojo