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Diane Lane (age 37)
and Olivier Martinez (age 36)
An affair with a "younger man"?

Unfaithful (2002) starstarstarstar
Reviewed 2001-05-27: Why do men cheat? We've heard all the reasons, and probably seen them on the big screen, as well. So why do women cheat? That's a question akin to "What do women want?" (unanswered in the Mel Gibson film of that title). In Unfaithful, Diane Lane is Connie Sumner, pretty much a soccer mom — if your soccer mom is beautiful and sexy — in a good marriage to husband Edward (the reliable Richard Gere), with a good kid (Erik Per Sullivan), living in a quiet suburb. From all appearances, Connie is happy with her life.

But one windy day shopping in New York City, she walks through a neighborhood and is literally swept off her feet by a young and devastatingly handsome stranger, Paul (Olivier Martinez, once billed as the "French Brad Pitt"). Connie has scraped her knee; would she like to come up to his flat for tea and bandages? Over the next several days the two become increasingly infatuated with one another. Their hurried sexual liaisons are passionate and powerful. But, inevitably, Connie leaves clues for her husband to find. I won't spoil it with details, but deep trouble follows Edward's discovery of the affair. Then the marriage relationship is truly tested.

So, why does Connie cheat? I suggest it is because she is full of passion. She does not love her husband any less, but the tugging of hormones will not be denied. Or perhaps passion is addictive, like opium, which may be saying the same thing in a different way. What is important for the film, however, is that we believe it.

I believe it. Diane Lane is an awesome actress. I've seen her in The Perfect Storm (2000), A Walk on the Moon (1999, in which she was also unfaithful!), Murder at 1600 (1997, in which I worked as a stand-in), Chaplin (1992), Lonesome Dove (1989 TV miniseries), and other films. She has worked before with her Unfaithful co-star, Richard Gere — in The Cotton Club (1984), which I have not seen.

One note on ages: I think director Adrian Lyne (Fatal Attraction) had in mind a fling between an older woman and a younger man, in this screenplay based on the Claude Chabrol film La Femme Infidèle, but that's complicated by their relative ages: Paul claims he is 28, but see the caption opposite. On the other hand, casting 52-year-old Richard Gere as Diane Lane's husband puts an obvious, though not necessarily unheard-of, age difference between the marriage partners. There are many actors of Lane's Diane Lane, Olivier Martinezage and Gere's talent who could have played the Edward Sumner role: Nicolas Cage, Matt Dillon, Rob Lowe, Russell Crowe, Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, Matthew Broderick, Tom Cruise, George Clooney, Eric Stoltz, James Spader, Tony Goldwyn, David Duchovny, Timothy Hutton, and Kenneth Branagh, for example. What was Lyne thinking in casting Richard Gere? Probably that Gere is so attractive that cheating on him would be almost unthinkable. But I'm only guessing. And while there are many actresses closer to Richard Gere's age, and not at all unattractive in their skin — for example, Jessica Lange, Meryl Streep, Sigourney Weaver, Sissy Spacek, Cybill Shepherd, Jane Seymour, Barbara Carrera, Isabelli Rossellini, Kim Basinger, Rene Russo, Kathleen Turner, Alice Krige, Kathleen Quinlan — Diane Lane is irreplaceable!

Agree? Disagree? Tell me!


Ronald Bruce Meyer is a freelance reviewer.