Unfaithful (2002 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Adrian Lyne|
G. Mac Brown
William Broyles Jr.
The Unfaithful Wife|
by Claude Chabrol
|Music by||Jan A. P. Kaczmarek|
|Edited by||Anne Coates|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$119 million|
Unfaithful is a 2002 American thriller drama film directed 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 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 $119,137,784 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.
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Edward (Richard Gere) and Connie Sumner (Diane Lane) are a married couple living in the northern suburbs of New York City (in Westchester County, New York) with their eight-year-old son, Charlie (Erik Per Sullivan). Their relationship is loving, but familiar and lacking excitement. One afternoon, Connie goes shopping for Charlie's upcoming birthday party. She is caught in a heavy windstorm, and runs into a handsome stranger (Olivier Martinez). They both fall, and Connie scrapes her knees. He offers to treat her injuries in his Soho apartment, and she accepts. He introduces himself as Paul Martel, a 27-year-old book dealer. Paul makes small advances toward Connie, which makes her uncomfortable, and she decides to leave. Before doing so, Paul gives her a book of Persian poetry as a gift. After returning home, Connie tells Edward what happened, and he suggests they buy Paul a thank-you gift.
While reading the book Paul gave her, Connie finds his phone number inside. Connie calls Paul from Grand Central Terminal for his address, but he invites her over for coffee instead. Paul reads Connie a book in Braille amidst mild flirting. Connie, despite her feelings of attraction, leaves. Connie is unable to stop thinking about Paul, and decides to visit him with a bag of muffins. After Connie and Paul have a dance, she stops, saying she can't continue, and leaves. When she returns to retrieve her coat, Paul literally sweeps her off her feet and into his bed. While on the train ride home via the Metro-North Railroad, Connie, in tears, recalls their sexual encounter in flashbacks. She is thrilled by the sexual attention she is receiving from a younger man, but feels guilty at the same time. Connie uses her work for a charity event as an excuse to go into the city to visit Paul more frequently. Edward almost immediately senses something and sees subtle changes in her, which is confirmed by an inconsistency in an excuse she uses to visit the city one day. One morning he notices that Connie is fixing herself up to go into the city, with brand new shoes and lingerie draped over a chair, and he tells Connie he will wait for her so they can go into the city together. She urges him to go without her, that she won't be ready for quite a while, so he tries to get her to agree to meet him for lunch, but she says she has a salon appointment and won't be able to meet him. Later on, at the office, suspecting Connie is lying, Edward calls the salon she mentioned and it is confirmed that she doesn't have an appointment that day.
Edward hires a private investigator, Frank Wilson (Dominic Chianese), to follow her. Frank returns with pictures of Connie and Paul together, 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 carry on the affair. Unsuccessfully trying to end the affair over the phone, Connie decides it would be best to do so in person. She spots Paul with another woman walking down the street as she approaches his neighborhood in her SUV. After following and then confronting Paul, their argument ends in a tryst in the stairwell of his apartment building. At the same time, Edward is standing outside Paul's apartment building, where Edward and Connie narrowly miss each other as she leaves out the backdoor. Edward goes to Paul's apartment and confronts him, revealing that he is Connie's husband. Edward asks to come into Paul's apartment, and after Paul lets him in, he gives Edward some vodka and they talk about Connie. Edward asks how Paul and Connie met, and while walking around the apartment, Edward is stunned to see a snow globe by the bed, which he recognizes as a gift he gave to Connie. Paul reveals that Connie gave it to him as a gift. Feeling sick and disoriented, Edward sits down on the bed and Paul asks if he would like some water. Edward suddenly has a mental breakdown and hits Paul with the snow globe, severely fracturing his skull and killing him instantly.
After wrapping Paul's body in a rug and cleaning up evidence of the murder and of his own presence in the apartment, Edward hears Connie leaving a message on Paul's answering machine, saying she must end the affair. Edward erases all the messages and leaves, putting Paul's body in the trunk of his car. Edward joins his wife at Charlie's school play, and late that night while Connie is sleeping, drives to a landfill and dumps Paul's body. In the ensuing days, Paul's murder plagues Edward, who is unable to stop thinking about what he has done. When two NYPD detectives arrive at the Sumner home while Edward is at work, they explain to Connie that Paul's estranged wife had reported him missing, and that they found Connie's name and phone number on his desk. Connie claims she barely knows him and that she was interested in buying books from him. A week later, the detectives return and tell Connie and Edward that Paul's body has been discovered. When police ask Connie how she met Paul, she replies that they met at a Juilliard fundraiser. To Connie's surprise, Edward corroborates her story. The detectives ask if Connie has ever been to Paul's apartment, and Connie denies even being in the Soho neighborhood any time recently. However, the police tell her that she had in fact received a parking ticket in front of Paul's apartment just a month earlier. Connie replies that she forgot about a day that she met friends for coffee at a Soho café. Several days later, Connie finds the investigator's photos of her and Paul when she takes Edward's clothes to the drycleaner, and realizes that Edward knows about the affair. That night, during a party at their home, Connie notices that the snow globe has been returned to their collection. Connie looks over at Edward, he meets her gaze knowingly, and she realizes that Edward murdered Paul.
Connie and Edward argue and, out of anger and frustration, Edward says that he wanted to kill her instead of Paul. In the days that follow, while looking at the underside of the snow globe, Connie discovers a hidden compartment containing a photograph of her, Edward, and an infant Charlie, with a loving anniversary message instructing her not to read the message until their 25th wedding anniversary. As Connie is burning the photographs of her and Paul in the fireplace, Edward says he will turn himself in. Connie objects, saying they will find a way to move on. The two then appear to go about living a normal life. One night, while driving, with Charlie sleeping in the backseat, Edward stops the car at an intersection due to red light. Connie whispers to Edward that they could leave the country and assume new identities, and Edward agrees to the idea. Connie then starts crying, and Edward consoles her. It is revealed that Edward has stopped his 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. 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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