Rated: R
Stars:   Richard Gere, Diane Lane, Olivier Martinez, Erik Per Sullivan
Director:   Adrian Lyne
Writers:    William Broyles Jr., Alvin Sargent; based on the 1969 French film La Femme Infidele.

Unfaithful is a story of a happy and affluent suburban housewife who nevertheless decides to have an affair with a young Frenchman she meets quite by accident. That decision results in disastrous consequences for her, her husband and the young man. It is a sensual, adult film that is as good as it is largely because of the finely textured performance by Diane Lane. She’s supported with exceptional care by Richard Gere.

Lane plays Connie Sumner who lives in an upscale home in New York’s Westchester county where she cares for businessman husband Edward (Gere) and their eight year old son Charlie (Erik Per Sullivan). Although there’s some talk of Connie’s involvement in a charity auction, she has no job other than keeping the house in order, and even then, she employs a housekeeper.

She goes into the city shopping for Charlie’s birthday presents on a windy day and is quite literally blown into the dark and dashing book-collector named Paul Martel (Olivier Martinez). Trouble is, not even when Hurricane Gloria struck did New York City experience such bluster as a wind storm of this magnitude. Books and presents go flying and Connie scrapes her knees badly on the cobblestone street. Paul invites Connie to his apartment to get cleaned up.

It’s an old loft in SoHo, dark and slightly romantic, filled with first-edition books and odd sculptures. She’s entered a world far different from the cheery, scrupulously clean home and life she sees every day. This world has forbidden charms, for standing amid the chaos, is this French-accented hero, beckoning to her in his best “seize the moment” rhetoric. She resists, at first, even a second time when she is drawn to the city on a pretense to thank him for his kindness. But, his flirtatiousness is too strong and Connie hesitantly gives in. She is soon swept into an all-consuming affair in which she becomes increasing careless about and it’s not long before Edward becomes suspicious.

Lane is brilliant as the conflicted Connie who is torn between guilt and ecstasy over her involvement with Paul. And the screenplay delves deftly into her character by two key scenes, how she trembles during their first sexual encounter and her remembrance of it while riding home on the train. These are beautifully crafted scenes. Gere’s performance is subtle and certainly deserves recognition for how well he plays opposite Lane.

For the most part, Lyne’s direction is beautifully measured with the exception of his camera’s eye on Lane’s physique. It’s too much and there’s hardly equal time for the males in the film. Sensuality isn’t all about women. The most tantalizing elements are the tensions harbored between Connie and Edward, Connie and Paul and finally Edward and Paul. The film falters somewhat when it turns from character study to crime coverup.

Lotta says Unfaithful is good with exceptionally strong performances. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s talk of an Academy Award for Diane Lane next year.

Reviewed 5/12/02