“Deep Water,” the new erotic thriller starring Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas, is finally on Hulu after a series of missed theatrical release dates.
The first film in 20 years from British provocateur Adrian Lyne (“Flashdance,” “Unfaithful,” “Indecent Proposal”), is very much worth your time – an exploration of the dynamics of marriage as much as a tense, white-knuckle thriller. (This isn’t exactly a calming watch.) And it’s got an ending, much like Lyne’s unforgettable endings for, say, “Fatal Attraction” or “Jacob’s Ladder,” that you will be discussing long after. Which is what we’re going to be doing!
Major spoilers for “Deep Water” follow; if you haven’t watched yet turn back now!
A Very Dysfunctional Marriage
In broad strokes, “Deep Water,” based on a novel of the same name by “The Talented Mr. Ripley” author Patricia Highsmith, centers on the marriage of Vic Van Allen (Affleck) and his much younger wife Melinda (de Armas). He made an ungodly amount of money designing microchips that allow for drone technology to work. (This is our first indication that he is, at the very least, somewhat morally compromised. When he talks about his job to a local writer named Don, played by the great Tracy Letts, he gets a quizzical look.) His wife Melinda (and mother to their young child Trixie) just hangs out all day, getting into flirtatious and occasionally sexual relationships with men in town.
An early scene shows her bringing a young man to a party that is being thrown by one of their friends. She is pretty blatant about the attention she is lavishing on him. Vic corners the young man and refers to another “friend” of his wife’s who went missing. “I killed him,” Vic tells the new friend. Since this is a squarish Southern town (Little Wesley, Louisiana), word gets around and people start to talk about Vic and his wife’s relationship and what he is willing to do to protect it. (The movie never definitively states whether Vic killed the guy he makes reference to; later they do find his body but he was murdered in a way that was dissimilar to what Vic described.)
In one of the more painfully awkward moments in the movie, Melinda convinces Vic to cook for this young man. He comes over to the house, there is some very terse conversation and some inappropriate behavior by Melinda (of course).
Ultimately this friend ends up leaving town. Conflict avoided. But there’ll be others.
There are a couple more things you need to know about our boy Vic – one, he and Melinda are not sleeping in the same room. She’s got the bedroom all to herself and she’s a complete slob. It’s heavily implied that her extramarital exploits began after he broke his vows by cheating on her. But much of these details are shrouded in mystery. If you have a different interpretation, it could be right!
Now, back to weird, morally nebulous Vic – he also has a snail collection. It’s not to sauté in garlic and butter. It’s not to serve as a natural pesticide to a growing garden. He just has a snail collection. It’s very weird and creepy and everybody he brings down to his dank snail space is like “Nah, I’m good.”
These things are important. Maybe. Who knows. Anyway, Melinda starts to take up with another man, this one named Charlie and played by “Euphoria” hunk Jacob Elordi. (Probably worth mentioning that “Euphoria” creator/mastermind Sam Levinson co-wrote the screenplay.) She flaunts this relationship even more openly than the previous relationship and gives him thousands of (Vic’s) dollars to give her “piano lessons.” She invites him to a pool party that one of their friends (Dash Mihok) is throwing. (Lots of grand Southern garden parties, huh?) When it starts raining, everybody scrambles out of the pool. Except for Vic and Charlie. Minutes after Vic comes inside, Charlie’s body is discovered, floating in the pool.
Did Vic do it?
Well, yeah he did. But he claims that he’s innocent and the local cops give him a pass, undoubtedly because he is a rich white man. But writer Don is suspicious. Could this handsome, square-jawed husband be responsible for murder?
Vic Gets Caught
After the drowning of poor, cute Charlie, Melinda starts to become suspicious too. She claims that Vic killed Charlie in public and teams up with Don to hire a private investigator, who admittedly isn’t very good at his job (Vic spots him instantly). At one point Vic goes to Don’s house and exposes his extracurricular activities in front of his wife, who admonishes him. Honestly it’s impressive that a marginally employed novelist can afford a private eye.
Somehow worse than all of this murder talk – Melinda has already taken up with another young stud, this time Tony, played by “American Horror Story” mainstay Finn Wittrock. There’s lots of carrying on and Vic is even more upset because Tony and Melinda knew each other from before. This has more of an air of a relationship, more than a sultry fling. Once again, she has her lover over to dinner with the three of them. (Before the dinner she ignores Vic in the tub. She’s getting ready for Tony.) After dinner Vic sees her undress for Tony. Vic has HAD IT UP TO HERE.
Wanting to show Tony some piece of property, he takes Tony out to the woods, throws rocks at him, and pushes him over a precipice. Tony lands on a bigger rock. Vic drags his body into the DEEP WATER, weighing it down with even more rocks. Back at the house, Vic secrets Tony’s wallet away in one of his snail terrariums like a true freak.
Vic and Melinda bring Trixie out for a picnic near where he offed Tony. Looking out into the water, he notices the body bobbing just below the surface and makes a mental note to return and shove that dude further below the waves. But the picnic is nice. Melinda and Vic are getting along! This could maybe work out! Also Vic made her a photo album or something. That really didn’t make sense except earlier in the movie we saw Vic at a weird office and figured he was doing something more nefarious.
Anyway, Vic comes back to stomp that dude down and he looks up, only to see snoopy old Don. In the original novel, Don walks in on Vic strangling Melinda, which is dark as hell but makes marginally more sense than what happens now.
While all this mishegoss is happening down by the water, Melinda, still distraught that Tony hasn’t called her, goes searching around Vic’s snail lab. She finds Tony’s wallet amongst the snails and starts packing her suitcase. Trixie is upset. She doesn’t want her mom to leave or her family to be broken apart.
Back at the river, Vic scrambles up the embankment, gets on his bike (he bikes a lot, as most multimillionaire psychopaths do), and crashes his bike in front of Don’s car. Don, desperately trying to send a text to Melinda that, we assume, is probably, “LOL caught Vic trying 2 get rid of body smdh,” swerves to avoid hitting Vic and crashes through the forest, down a ravine and his car ends up upside down near the water where Tony lays undisturbed.
At the exact moment Don’s car crashes, we cut back to the homestead, where Trixie has thrown her mother’s luggage in the DEEP WATER of the family pool.
Vic comes home, mirroring almost exactly the shot that opened the movie. He’s disheveled, wet, probably hungry. Matilda says that she talked to Tony. The last shot of the movie is her burning his wallet.
Is she okay with his murderous ways? Is she turned on? What will she think when he tells her that he’s also responsible for Don’s death? Ah who cares. “Deep Water” was pretty good and sexy and screwed up. Mission accomplished, everybody!