A huge reason we go to movies or read books: escapism. We may spend our days placing dollar bills into hundred-dollar stacks all day at the bank, listening to our friends talk about their chronic fatigue syndrome, or picking up piles of dog shit in the backyard. We usually do not spend our days having insane, angry sex with a tattooed French book dealer in bathrooms, movie theaters, and apartment hallways--but we can certainly pretend.
The premise of adultery is enough to make Unfaithful a movie I want to see. Diane Lane is a housewife, working part-time in the city, who loves her husband (the cheesy and overly adoring Richard Gere) and son (the highly annoying Erik Per Sullivan). But without any malice, she can't stop herself from falling under the spell of a daunting Frenchman, Paul Martel (hottie Olivier Martinez), when he gives her tea and band-aids after she takes a nasty spill in front of his apartment. Suddenly, instead of feeling like a mom, a wife, and a sounding board to her family's trivial problems, she feels like a young sex goddess. She wants to screw Paul night and day and forgets about her responsibilities as a mom.
Don't think Richard doesn't notice, though; he does. And, of course, here comes the part where he hires a private investigator and the film unnecessarily spirals into typical erotic thriller formula. Here comes the big, scary Hollywood surprise, which is completely unnecessary in a film about the explosive tension of a forbidden relationship, juxtaposed against the subtle tension between a husband and wife who are losing touch with each other.
Lane does a compelling job of portraying a torn woman. There is a scene where she's on the train home from the Frenchman's, laughing and crying as she remembers their initial encounter. The problem, however, is that the characters in general are portrayed too much as caricatures--probably because the film is a Hollywood tracing of the French film La Femme Infidèle. As a result, the plot starts out wonderfully slow, and ends up as a ridiculous race to the finish. Like bad sex.