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NOC Review: ‘Deep Water’ Feels a Bit Shallow

We love Ana de Armas and Ben Affleck. They’re terrific actors. And they elevate every project they’re in. No matter how repetitive and pointless it might be. And those are the two adjectives that come to mind when I think about Deep Water.

It’s not an absolute trainwreck. Nor is it offensive in any way shape or form. But it is the type of forgettable movie where the intrigue wears off midway through, and quickly gets replaced by apathy.

Ben Affleck as Vic Van Allen in 20th Century Studios’ DEEP WATER, exclusively on Hulu. Photo by Claire Folger. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Loyally adapted from the novel by Talented Mr. Ripley author Patricia Highsmith, the film plays like the type of villain protagonist story we’d expect from Highsmith. Vic and Melinda are a married couple with an adorable little girl. Their relationship is strained. Melinda flirtatiously “makes friends” with age-appropriate men, while her older odd husband spends his time monosyllabically tending to his collection of snails (you read that right). Tragedies start to befall Melinda’s “friends” one after the other. Is someone murdering these people? What’s lurking beneath the facade of this really, really, really ridiculously good looking couple’s marriage? Etc.

If you’re coming into this movie expecting Gone Girl, you shouldn’t. It’s not nearly as intriguing or twisty. And the stuff that is captivating gets stale as the movie progresses. The issue with the movie is there’s a sense of predictability that wears out thanks to the film’s formula of “snails, new lover, mysterious death, questions, repeat.” It ends up getting quite a bit tedious as a result.

Ben Affleck as Vic Van Allen in 20th Century Studios’ DEEP WATER, exclusively on Hulu. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

As are the characters. Both Melinda and Vic have a tendency to relish in the hurt they do to themselves and others. It feels a bit sadistic, and makes it difficult to determine if there’s anyone worth rooting for in this story. But rather than taking that morality conundrum and playing it out as something interesting, like Fincher did with Gone Girl, it essentially just decides it’s fine the way it is, repeats, and ends.

And that’s just it. In the age of Gone Girl, you have the opportunity to explore twisted ideas of concepts like our media obsessed culture, relationship dynamics, and how the country prioritizes crimes, murders, and disappearances of White individuals over anyone else. But instead, Deep Water hollowly puts out the premise that rich White men can get away with anything, without really exploring it or satirizing it. Thus, it ends up being devoid of wit and ambition or initiative.

Ana de Armas as Melinda Van Allen in 20th Century Studios’ DEEP WATER. Photo by Claire Folger. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

That being said, Affleck and de Armas are exceptionally good in their respective parts, even if the material doesn’t service them. Affleck in particular shines, giving a haunting and scary performance brimming with quiet menace. Whether he’s spraying down snails, or intimidating Melinda’s “friends,” he does a lot with as much as a stare down. de Armas also brings a darkness to Melinda, with her seemingly expressing her pleasure at the idea of making Vic jealous, or potentially more. There’s an anti-chemistry between them that makes their broken dynamic infinitely more believable, even if their actions don’t entirely make sense much of the time. Additionally, adorable young breakout star Grace Jenkins, who plays the couple’s daughter, Trixie, steals every scene she’s in.

That being said, though the actors are doing everything they can to save the feature, we’re essentially looking at a pointless and monotonous Fincher-wannabe without brains or teeth. Though not without its charm, it wears out its welcome fast, and is not nearly as clever as it thinks it is. Predictable, derivative, and repetitive, Deep Water squanders its talented actors with material that frankly leaves them and the entire film, up the creek without a paddle.

Overall Score: C

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