Deep Water Movie 2022 – An (Almost) Modern Take On Patricia Highsmith Classic
The Patricia Highsmith novel from 1957 Deep Water is now a 2022 Hulu original movie starring Ben Affleck, Ana De Armas, and directed by Adrian Lyne. This marks the first film in 20 years for the director, his last since Unfaithful in 2002. That film was about a married couple where one partner was unfaithful and then the lover ended up dead. Deep Water is a movie about a married couple where one partner is unfaithful and at least one lover ends up dead. What could possibly explain this similarity is that Deep Water seems like the movie Lyne wanted to make in 2002.
Studio notes on that last movie changed the married characters’ story in a way he objected to. In this film there is much more ambiguity about the intimate lives of the characters. Just like Patricia Highsmith in her novel, Lyne – and screenwriters Sam Levinson and Zach Helm – doesn’t want to let the the 2022 movie version of the couple in Deep Water off-the-hook. In a way it’s a strange choice because, as lousy as the studio executives are, I found myself struggling to empathize with these beautiful, rich people whose biggest problem seems to be a sense of marriage politics more at home in 1957. Luckily, the performances and the look of the film keep you engaged until (or if) the story hooks you.
I’m certain that Adrian Lyne (and likely De Armas and Affleck) wanted this film to come out in theaters. Yet, it’s 2022 and the Deep Water movie is already almost three years old, so I think Hulu is the perfect place for a movie like this. Even before these endemic times, this sort of movie would likely have struggled at the box office.
Why the 2022 Deep Water Movie Is Perfect for Hulu
Image by Claire Fogler via Hulu
Just recently, most of us who go to the movies went to see The Batman, a film that clocks in at three hours. Deep Water also comes very close to that runtime and, in a very coincidental way, shares a similar tone the Matt Reeves movie. However our Batman in this movie is Ben Affleck and the central focus of this story is about whether or not he is a murderer. If you are familiar with the Deep Water novel by Patricia Highsmith, you know what you’re getting in this movie. I am actually shocked at how closely this film follows the novel’s story without it being a 1950s period piece.
For half the film I was a bit disappointed that Lyne didn’t go in that direction. The character tensions throughout would have played equally (if not more) strongly in that atmosphere. If Vic and Melinda had simply watched Lyne’s movies like 9½ Weeks or Fatal Attraction, one thinks a lot of this unpleasantness would be avoided. In her Retro Review of Body of Evidence, Salomé Gonstad points out the erotic thriller – which Deep Water considers itself to be even in 2022 – has gone out of style perhaps because of the changing movie business. I mean “Netflix and chill” became a thing for a reason, so much so the meme is as trite as those cats who can’t spell.
Personally, I find this thriller as erotic as a cable true-crime reenactment, but your mileage may vary. Either way, it makes sense to watch what is a truly well-made, intentional film at home rather than in a theater. Though Lyne’s last movie made back its $50 million budget, Deep Water would have a more difficult time doing that in 2022.
Adrian Lyne Made a Remarkably Faithful Adaptation of the Patricia Highsmith Novel
Image via Hulu
While best remembered for Strangers on a Train, Patricia Highsmith was praised contemporaneously for her novel Deep Water. In 1957 the story was positively shocking! Yet, in 2022, the sexual politics of the central marriage in the Deep Water movie is less so. We should never punish a film for not being what we wanted it to be. Yet, I suspected that Lyne came out of retirement to update this story since we live in a world where ethical nonmonogamy is a thing. In fact, I suspected a twist to upended the fairly predictable(for readers of the book) plot of the story. In fairness to Highsmith, it was the internal lives of the characters in the book where the real story unfolded. “Just get a divorce,” was more difficult for readers to get their heads around in 1957. Because ain’t nothing ethical here.
Rather than the erotic thrillers of the past, this film almost feels like it has more in common with Marriage Story. Though, the former makes the latter seem like a quaint tale about two people who got it right (or at least better than Vic and Melinda). Of course, fans of the Patricia Highsmith book will find some surprises, too. Yet, those come in the form of plot. If anything, the internal lives of the characters stay hidden or, at least, fatally ambiguous. This changes perhaps for Vic in the final hour of the film.
The appeal of the novel was that Highsmith spent a lot of her wordcount making sure readers knew how the characters felt. It seems that Lyne aimed for the opposite. This does make the “whodunit?” aspect of the movie a little more fun, but when arcs come to a denouement, I don’t necessarily understand the character choices.
The Deep Water movie debuts on Hulu on March 18, 2022, & get the Patricia Highsmith novel wherever books are sold.
Lastly, the performances hold up some of the weight that the story can’t carry. Ana De Armas delivers an intense performance. I just wish we could have understood her perspective more. Ben Affleck does what a guy with that chin is supposed to do in this movie. He projects charm and menace from a character that is Wonka-level untrustworthy. Li’l Rel is a delight every time he’s on-screen (as per usual, this is why you cast Rel). Also, shoutout to Tracy Letts for one of the character actor’s most “Tracy Letts” roles. He’s a clutch player who makes what could have been a very dour movie fun in the way movies should be.
Photo by Claire Fogler via Hulu
What do you think? Do you think the Deep Water movie is a big box office hit in 2022 or do you think Hulu is the right place for it? Are you a fan of the Patricia Highsmith novel? Share your thoughts, reviews, and reactions in the comments below.
Featured image via Hulu
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book of superhero short stories, Tales of Adventure & Fantasy: Book One is available as an ebook or paperback from Amazon.