Deep Water is a rough version of Patricia Highsmith’s novel of the same name from the 1950s. The film stars Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas as Vic and Melinda Van Allen, and while their complicated marital situation and consequent ramifications are eerily identical to the novel, Zach Helm and Sam Levinson’s script executes the narrative in a completely unexpected way. Rather than embracing Highsmith’s novel’s psychological thriller component, this Deep Water dives headfirst into the sexual thriller pool, crafting a significantly more convoluted and unsettling tale.
Affleck and de Armas play a couple who have fallen out of love with one another in the film, which is set in New Orleans. They keep up appearances with Vic’s friends Nash (Lil Rel Howery) and Arthur (Dash Mihok), as well as want to be novelist Lionel Washington (Tracy Letts) and his wife (Kristen Connolly). Vic and Melinda are merely a couple who have moved past the honeymoon period of their relationship, according to even the most intimate outside observers. No one seemed to be bothered by Melinda’s habit of parading about their extravagant home parties with handsome men like Richard Chase (Jacob Elordi), Joel Nash (Brendan C. Miller), and Dom Hart (Finn Wittrock). Not even Vic, at least not first.
Melinda has a distinct pattern. She chooses a new attractive lad to have an affair with and then invites him to one of the Van Allens’ frequent home parties. Vic feigns ignorance and insists he doesn’t want to manage her while she flaunts her connection with the guy in front of him. Then, eventually, Vic becomes enraged over her affair, Melinda persuades him to have her lover boy around for dinner and play nice with them, and inevitably, Melinda and Vic have a fight that results in them creating up within the chamber. It’s a terrifying cycle since each gorgeous boy eventually disappears—some more permanently than others. This is when the suspense aspect of this twisted story comes into play.
Deep Water features a startling lack of true sensuality for a film that has been widely touted as an outrageously sexy thriller. Sure, Melinda has the men following her around out of their desire for her, but it all feels rather clean. That’s not to say there aren’t sex scenes–there are–but they’re nothing near as good as those in Basic Instinct, Crash, or Color of Night. Deep Water feels like a rip-off of far superior thrillers like A Simple Favor or Gone Girl, which strangely also stars Affleck as a spouse who is suspected of murder. It creeps along, building up the suspense and mystery of it all, but never quite delivers the release you’re looking for. By the conclusion, viewers will question whether they just spent nearly two hours watching a couple investigate a homicidal cuckolding situation.
Deep Water doesn’t do a good job of connecting with its actors since Vic and Melinda are both extremely surface-level characters. Vic is the most developed character of the two. We see him as a devoted father who cherishes his daughter, as well as caring for his unusual snail-raising hobby. Melinda, on the other hand, is set up to be little more than a gorgeous and promiscuous wife with a drinking problem.
De Armas is an exceptionally gifted actor, but she seems to be typecast as the eye candy with no real substance.
Despite being headed by two heavyweights like Affleck and de Armas, both seasoned performers are entirely eclipsed by Deep Water‘s actual star: Grace Jenkins, who portrays Trixie Van Allen, the Van Allens’ daughter. This tiny child actress delivers some really difficult lines, such as confronting her father about how a guy drowned in their pool, as well as singing and dancing around the family house like a child. The creators definitely saw her as a rising star because they inserted over two minutes of her singing along to Leo Sayer’s “You Make Me Want to Dance” in the film’s credits.
It’s terrible that Deep Water marks Adrian Lyne’s comeback to directing after a twenty-year absence. Deep Water lacks the passion and desire that Lyne has always been capable of portraying on film for a director who has given the world sensual thrillers like Fatal Attraction, Jacob’s Ladder, and Indecent Proposal. Since its initial announcement, the picture has been beset by problems: Affleck and de Armas‘ real-life romance dissolved, Disney purchased 20th Century Fox, and its theatrical premiere was postponed three times until Disney opted to convert it to a Hulu-exclusive release. It’s likely that Deep Water has lost all of its promised sexiness during the last two years, leaving it more akin to tepid seas.