[MOVIE REVIEW]Lyne's faithful glimpse at infidelity and passion

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[MOVIE REVIEW]Lyne's faithful glimpse at infidelity and passion

"Unfaithful" is an ode to love that leaves you crushed. It examines the perfect husband -- a handsome, loyal provider who's in love with his wife -- and the perfect wife, a lovely supermom who's devoted to her husband and involved with her son's schooling.

Together, they're in the perfect 11-year marriage and living in the idyllic suburbs of New York's Westchester County.

But when chance comes one windy day, in the form of a French charmer, the wife changes her ways. What results is a lustful affair that begins, as another character in the movie says, "in fun." But how it ends is far from fun.

The movie opens with close-up shots of the perfect home, but all the objects are falling or moving -- a bike on the grass, the leaves in the yard. The wind is blowing fiercely that day, as if a narrator is reading from the beginning of a fairy tale. Cut to a scene of husband, wife and son at breakfast.

It's a lovely, but pat, beginning. The movie feels perfectly crafted, with beautiful images and outstanding performances by Diane Lane, as Connie Sumner, and Richard Gere, as Edward Sumner. Olivier Martinez co-stars as Paul Martel, a stereotypical French lover.

The acting is superbly controlled and layered. Lane's performance is a slow burn. As she takes the train from New York City to the suburbs, recalling her first physical encounter with her lover, her face is marvelous to watch as it changes from embarrassment to delight, to guilt, and then back to delight. She sizzles with Martinez, a charming dealer of rare books who tosses out lines like: "Be happy for this moment, for this moment is your life."

Gere also holds his emotions in check. You sense that beneath the love for his wife, there is rage and a possessive streak. When his emotions surface, they are shocking and heart-wrenching.

Nevertheless, most of the time, you sense the person behind the scenes, pushing you through the story and making it hard to be drawn into the characters. It's as if the director, Adrian Lyne, who also directed "9 1/2 Weeks," "Fatal Attraction," and "Indecent Proposal," grabbed hold of some sensational topics -- infidelity and crimes of passion by the upper class -- and then cooly portrayed them from a distance.

The movie is disturbing because you know that the picture-perfect facade isn't real. What's underneath? We never really find out the whys underscoring Ms. Sumner's choices and we never are given a clear vision through the layers to the heart beneath, but we watch her as she knowingly indulges in events that lead to rage and heartbreak. We watch with concern as Mr. Sumner starts suspecting and hires a detective.

The movie is adopted from Claude Chabrol's "Le Femme Infidele," which itself paid homage to "Madame Bovary." The ending of "Unfaithful" is more ambiguous. By the resolution, the story is told, the deed is done. And the marriage?

by Joe Yong-hee

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