The film works on a superficial level where it is fascinating to watch this unique couple go about their lives. They are a good-looking couple, but their souls are as dark and dank as the bottom of a snail’s terrarium…reports Troy Rebeiro
(Streaming on Prime Video), Duration: 115 minutes, Director: Adrian Lyne, Cast: Ben Affleck, Ana de Armas, Tracy Letts, Lil Rel Howery, Dash Mihok, Finn Wittrock, Jacob Elordi, Rachel Blanchard, Michael Braun (Rating: ***)
Directed by Adrian Lyne, who had earlier given us ‘Fatal Attraction’, ‘Indecent Proposal’, and ‘Unfaithful,’ this film anchored by strong performances from Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas, is based on author Patricia Highsmith’s fifth novel, ‘The Dog in the Manger,’ which was first published in 1957.
Its narrative sways between a domestic drama and a psychological thriller, inside the marriage of picture-perfect Vic and Melinda Van Allen to discover the dangerous mind games they play and what happens to the people who are caught between them.
Ben Affleck plays Vic, a successful software developer, and Ana de Armas essays his wife Melinda, a stunted housewife who misses her freedom. They portray themselves as an ideal couple but beneath their glossy veneer lies the fact that their loveless marriage is held together only by a precarious arrangement, whereby to avoid the messiness of divorce, Melinda is allowed to indulge in extra-marital activities, as long as she does not desert her family.
Vic accepts this without fault, and their relationship starts to strain when Vic begins to resent the guys his wife dates.
When Vic becomes fascinated with the unsolved murder of one of Melinda’s former lovers, he takes credit for the killing to discourage her current fling. While Vic’s claims are interpreted by his friends and the community as a dark joke, Melinda is wary, especially when her lovers inexplicably desert her.
Her doubts magnify when her current boyfriend Terry the Pianist, dies in their friend’s swimming pool during a house party. How their marriage crumbles under the weight of resentment, jealousy, and mistrust, forms the crux of the narrative.
The film works on a superficial level where it is fascinating to watch this unique couple go about their lives. They are a good-looking couple, but their souls are as dark and dank as the bottom of a snail’s terrarium.
The low-key Affleck portrays Vic in the similar masculine ambiguity that worked so well for him in the first half of his film ‘Gone Girl.’ Similarly, Ana de Armas is persuasive as the self-centered wife who lives the life of a singleton who drifts through her domestic life when it seems to suit her and may or may not be aware of the potential danger she is provoking.
The duo is aptly supported by the promising supporting cast, which includes Tracey Letts as the aspiring screenwriter Lionel, Jacob Elordi as the Pianist Terry, Lil Rel Howery as Vic’s buddy Nash. But the one who steals the show is the little girl who plays Vic and Melinda’s daughter. She is truly adorable.
Mounted with decent production values the film is enjoyable as a popcorn thriller, with intermittently erotic, tense, and creepy scenes, but unfortunately, never is there a moment of nail-biting tension.
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