The erotic thriller is back, baby! Or at least an erotic thriller: Deep Water, based on Patricia Highsmith’s 1957 novel, premiered on Hulu on Friday. The film is directed by Adrian Lyne, master of such legendary erotic thrillers as Fatal Attraction and Unfaithful, and stars erstwhile IRL lovers Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas. So, is the erotic thriller Deep Water actually erotic, you may be asking? Not even a little bit, unless you’re into one very specific thing (watching Ben Affleck watch Ana de Armas make out with other men). Is Deep Water thrilling? Allow me to answer your question with another question: Have you ever watched your dad try to craft a text with his index finger while shouting expletives? And did you find that thrilling? Well then, you might be as horny for Deep Water as Deep Water is horny for putting snails on each and every one of Ben Affleck’s fingertips like they’re goddamn Bugles.
But if not, you may simply be stunned to learn that over the course of this 116-minute movie, the premise hinges entirely on the revamped couple from Highsmith’s novel, Vic and Melinda Van Allen, courting a dangerous cuckold kink that ultimately climaxes in a number of killings, and one highly preventable car accident involving a Subaru and autocorrect. Touting a film with a teaser trailer that features his-and-hers hands-stuff only to present a film that is almost exclusively about its two main characters not having sex is a bold move. Given the movie’s literary source material, and the 14 months we spent tracking Affleck and de Armas giggling all over Los Angeles, audiences were set up to know quite a bit about Deep Water before it ever hit our screens …
… But I never could have expected how deeply unerotic it could be to watch a hot and sexy couple ruin dinner party after dinner party with their untenable cuck kink. Deep Water is a movie about being horny without being sexy. It is a movie about the dangers of being rich and bored. Deep Water is a movie about how cucking takes a village of uncomfortable friends and lovers. And it is proof of that age-old adage: Married people will literally create a psychosexual game wherein the points are murder and the goal is singlehandedly eliminating every young jazz musician within a 20-mile radius instead of going to couples therapy.
Luckily, the fun of this film doesn’t really lie in that psychosexual setup, or lack thereof. It lies in the absolute preposterousness of watching two of Hollywood’s biggest stars go all in on being stone-cold weirdos. We’re expecting to see a picnic-blanket hand job, and instead get a homemade magazine (maybe that’s where Ben got the idea). We’re anticipating nonstop sex scenes, but instead, we’re finding out all the ways Ana de Armas can find to sit in a chair without ever letting her feet touch the ground. After all, Deep Water is (surprise!) cowritten by Sam Levinson, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned from watching Euphoria, it’s that the sexiest thing a tiny woman can do is kick her feet up on the dashboard while a large, angry man drives her around.
In Deep Water, de Armas is never not unnecessarily biting into a blueberry, or throwing her head back to laugh like a free spirit, or leading a young man around a giant French Colonial house made entirely of staircases to find a place to quickly have sex just in view of her husband. Because, oh yes, Vic knows about Melinda’s dalliances … but instead of talking about it, they just kill people and host dinner parties about it.
And in that way, you kind of have to respect how this movie leans into the weirdness of Vic and Melinda, as opposed to just the sexiness. But in every other way, you have to ask: why is this woman eating an old apple off the floorboard, why has this man just served his 6-year-old daughter a Tervis tumbler of chardonnay, and why does almost nothing in this movie make any narrative sense? Let’s attempt to address it all by counting down the least erotic things in Deep Water, in chronological order:
Watching Commercials in the Year of Our Jacob Elordi, 2022
Listen, Hulu has to make back the cash it spent on a fleet of snail wranglers, I get that. But my mind is trained to expect movie trailers before I settle into a feature film, and maybe the appearance of a dancing popcorn carton if I arrive at the theater early enough—what it’s not trained to anticipate is an ad for digestive yogurt or healthy dog food before I dive into a movie about Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas going to town on one another. Hulu is simply the least titillating medium through which to consume this film.
A Grown Man Biking
The first thing we see de Armas do as Melinda is sexily lounge on an outdoor staircase contemplating her broken husband. The first thing we see Affleck do as Vic is toe off the biking shoes he’s been wearing without socks, and strip off loose, sweaty bike pants. It’s very important to this movie that we understand Vic likes to bike, and I only wish it had been a little more important to this movie to help us understand why Vic doesn’t ever just speak to his wife about her little “affair” problem before he starts his “killing” problem.
Verbally Harassing a 6-Year-Old
Vic and Melinda have a 6-year-old daughter with a genius brain, an actual button for a nose, and a small preoccupation with murder. Melinda wants almost nothing to do with her, and the first thing we hear her do in the movie is shout at Amazon to stop playing the daughter’s music: “Alexa … don’t ever play that shit again, please!”
A continued list of things we see Melinda do sexily that are actually awful character traits: help herself to food from other people’s plates, cheat at yard games, take her dress off in front of a regularly traumatized babysitter, commandeer the attention of an entire party for a piano performance (she does that twice), make out with not-her-husband in front of all her husband’s friends (she does that infinity times). Here is a list of things we see Melinda do that would actually endear her to anyone we meet in the movie: look like Ana de Armas.
On the other hand, Vic gives cash tips to his bartenders (hot) and consistent affection and affirmation to his daughter (sweet). Unfortunately, he is also a killer (ick) and poor communicator—an unsexy deal-breaker if ever there was one.
The Starter Boyfriend
The first “friend” of Melinda’s we see her invite to a party with her husband and their friends is Joel.
Joel’s entire vibe is absolutely inexplicable, and most assuredly not erotic. He wouldn’t even pose a threat to a Sudoku puzzle, let alone Vic Van Allen, so it’s an odd choice to make the Kato Kaelin of New Orleans serve as the impetus for Vic’s turn toward violent vengeance.
Eating an Old Apple
Other than the cucking, the first time we’re supposed to understand that Melinda’s oddness goes beyond being constantly hammered is when (while hammered), she plucks a half-eaten apple out of her daughter’s lunch box that has been sitting inside a car for an indeterminate amount of time, and starts chomp-chomp-chomping on it. And actually … much more concerning than eating old, partially-used produce, is drunk-eating anything that isn’t at least pizza bagel–adjacent.
The Snail Introduction
What if I told you that, after an evening of being cucked in front of his friends, watching two of his pet snails have sex is what’s causing Ben Affleck to make this face? Would you find that erotic? Would that be good for you?
Screaming With a Mouthful of Toothpaste
I can respect the complete lack of vanity in de Armas’s acting here, while also reserving the right for my stomach to turn as the frothiest toothpaste you ever did see flies out of her mouth after finding out that her husband “jokingly” told her “friend” Joel that he killed her former, now missing “friend,” Martin McRae. And the best part? She reloads the tank by giving another vigorous brush mid-argument.
Dinner With the Van Allens, Part 1
Perhaps the most torturous feature of Melinda and Vic’s dynamic is the way they invite every single one of Melinda’s boyfriends over for dinner even though it makes all parties involved deeply uncomfortable (except for Melinda, who only becomes uncomfortable when her boyfriends turn up dead—and they always turn up dead). After Vic upsets Joel by telling him he killed Martin McRae, Melinda insists that they host Joel for dinner, where they can continue upsetting him to get their jollies off.
Ben Affleck Invented Drone Warfare
In a movie full of unexpected plot nuggets, Vic Van Allen inventing the chip that allows drones to deploy targeted strikes might just be the most unexpected.
And Melinda constantly making sure to establish that Vic invented drone warfare in front of their 6-year-old is just another one of her fun little quirks!
The Pube That Lauched a Thousand Icks
The first time we see Melinda entertain the idea of having sex with her own husband, it’s in the car on the way back from a party at which Vic finally retaliated by dancing with a new woman in their friend group full of millionaires with no jobs and babysitters on retainer. Melinda leans over to perform the act of Never Have I Ever games everywhere—ahem, road head—which soon reveals itself to be a road punishment. After Vic has exclaimed in pain a number of times at whatever Melinda is doing down there, she angrily sits up, wipes her mouth … and picks a pubic hair off of her tongue.
HOW COULD WE HAVE EVER EXPECTED ANY OF THIS DURING THE BENANA DUNKIN’ WALKS OF 2020?
Boomer Phone Behavior, Part 1
Until this point in the movie, I still couldn’t be sure this story was set in New Orleans. Yes, the movie seemed to be implying New Orleans, but the size of the setting, and the insularity of the social network suggested something more like Stars Hollow: After Dark. Alas, I can now be certain the movie takes place in New Orleans after Vic finds out that Melinda’s newest “friend” is a young musician, and Vic in turn calls every jazz bar in New Orleans to see if they have live music playing that night. Every jazz bar! In New Orleans! And the one bar that says yes is precisely where Melinda’s new friend is playing. I can allow that resourcefulness is erotic, but I draw the line at inefficiency.
Another Visit to the Snail Shack
What if I told you that while soft pensive music played, Vic Van Allen was staring at snails like this, thinking about his wife rounding third base with her new piano-playin’ boyfriend, played by Jacob Elordi? Would you think that was erotic? Would you like that?
After Melinda invites another boyfriend to another party where her rapidly unraveling husband is present, Vic finally snaps, waits until everyone is rocked out of their minds on substances, and drowns Elordi in the pool. It’s a little attractive that the inventor of drone warfare, Vic Van Allen, has the mental forethought to burn his fingers on a hot cookie sheet in order to provide himself with a time-stamped alibi for when the police show up. But in general, drowning someone is not-hot behavior.
Knowing That You’re About to Ruin Your Friends’ Fun Party With Murder
Dinner With the Van Allens, Part 2
After the group pulls Elordi from the pool, a hysterical Melinda starts telling everyone who will listen that her husband definitely killed her boyfriend. Unfortunately, the only person who will listen is new-in-town writer and busybody, Don, played by Tracy Letts. Even more unfortunate, Don proves to be an extremely bumbling ally, but in a way that’s very fun to watch. After Vic realizes they’re on to him, he—you guessed it—invites Don and his wife over for one of the Van Allens’ signature dinner parties, wherein Vic traps Don in his snail shack, gets dangerously close to him with an electric drill while telling him to stop spreading rumors, and even worse, makes him listen to snail facts before dinner.
Dinner With the Van Allens, Part 3
At this point, Vic and Melinda’s behavior has officially escalated, and they’re having thrice-weekly godawful dinner parties. Despite having recently accused her husband of killing her second dead boyfriend, Melinda invites another new boyfriend, Tony (who’s actually an old ex-boyfriend), to dinner with her presumed-killer-husband, where she says this:
Whatever Vic and Melinda’s kink is, it goes far beyond cucking, and very specifically involves baked salmon, secondhand embarrassment, and homicide. No one makes it past the Van Allen house without a visit to the snail shack, which gives Tony the unfortunate idea that they should sauté a few snails in butter to go with their salmon … at which point Vic tells him that if you don’t starve snails and empty their intestines before eating them, they’ll poison you and you’ll die. Feels foreboding and defintely not sexy (even though Melinda and Tony definitely still have sex, in the house, while Vic is just a flight of stairs away).
Endangering an Adorable Puppy With Reckless Driving Because You Won’t Just Talk to Your Wife About not Liking the Cuck Theme That’s Developed in Your Relationship
How very dare you, Vic Van Allen, inventor of drone warfare.
Murder Redux :(
The morning after their snail-less dinner, Vic lures Tony into his jeep, drives him through the woods, and pelts him with rocks until he falls down a cliff and to his death in the gorge below. Vic weighs him down with rocks, drowns him in the titular deep water, drives back home, and ...
Pours His 6-Year-Old a Stiff Glass of White Wine to “Celebrate”
Somehow, the killings were not Vic’s heel turn—this Applebee’s pour for a kindergartener is the heel turn.
And the least erotic nail in the least erotic coffin comes when Vic presents Melinda—now absolutely enamored of him again for some reason—with a homemade magazine of his amateur photography that he rents an entire exposed-brick warehouse in New Orleans to create. Unbelievably, he gifts her this magazine at the site of Tony’s killing, moments after the mutual hand jobs we saw in the teaser trailer.
Finding Your Boyfriend’s Wallet in Your Husband’s Snail Shack
That moment when you realize that inviting your third boyfriend in as many weeks into your family home to grind on the porch in full sight of your assumed-homicidal husband may not have been the best idea. This might be the first time in the whole movie Melinda has found anything unarousing. (Don’t worry, she comes around.)
Boomer Phone Behavior, Second and Final Part
While doing hand stuff at the gorge in the near vicinity of their 6-year-old, Melinda Van Allen accidentally left her scarf behind, and Vic Van Allen spotted the body of a man he’d recently killed floating on the water’s surface. In a classic, two-birds-one-murder-stone scenario, Vic heads back to the gorge to collect the scarf and weigh Tony’s body back down. But while he’s poking at the body with a big stick, Don—who followed an assumed killer deep into the woods—appears from behind the trees and asks Vic what he’s doing.
And when Tony’s hand floats up out of the water in answer, rather than fear for his own life, Don is thrilled. Vindicated! Vic Van Allen is a killer—yay! Don sprints to his car and instead of calling 911, begins driving at top speed while typing out a text to his wife to tell her he was right.
A combination of texting-while-driving and “goddamn autocorrect” causes Don to drop his phone, and when he looks back up, he has to swerve to avoid crashing into Vic who has caught up with Don’s Subaru on a bicycle, sending him directly into the gorge.
Because, of course, male ego was the secret killer all along. Deep Water presents a narrative so incomprehensible, so completely unerotic, and yet so fun that it’s impossible to fully understand what’s going on—and I guess that’s a bit of a thrill all its own.