by Rob DiCristino
“There’s no fucking. Nobody’s fucking!” lamented auteur director Steven Soderbergh just a few months ago, in reference to the current glut of superhero-centered blockbuster cinema. And although the indies can always be relied upon to keep things provocative — I’m thinking Ducourneau’s Titane and even my beloved The Worst Person in the World — he’s mostly right. Mainstream Movies for Adults are in short supply, and the ones we get certainly aren’t anywhere near as steamy as the Fuck Noirs of yesteryear. It’s not just that they lack skin, of course — Though it is definitely also that. It’s that they rarely present their characters as capable of or interested in sexual expression of any kind. It’s not crass or leering to miss that, either: Sexuality drives so many human actions that excising that element severely limits the stories we can tell about ourselves. “I don’t know how to tell people how to behave in a world in which that is not a thing,” Soderbergh continued. Filmmaking is behavioral, after all, so why cut out one of our most fundamental behaviors?
From its opening beats, Deep Water feels like a film out of a bygone era (era), a rhythmic and pulsating cat and mouse game in which the rules are never quite clear and our sympathies are never quite aligned with one character or the other. Melinda is a vulgar mess, to be sure, and her open taunting of Vic — the man funding, excusing, and cleaning up after her extensive infidelities — seems beyond heartless. But Vic is steeping in a darkness of his own, furtively watching her dalliances from afar and getting a genuine thrill out of the passive threats he makes against her beaus. That mysterious death from before? Vic confesses to — hell, brags about — the murder to Joel in an early scene, leaving the floppy-haired dimwit to decide for himself if an affair with Melinda is worth his life. We soon realize that the Van Allens are playing a game — that Melinda’s promiscuity and Vic’s jealousy are like catnip to them both. When stuffy neighbor Lionel (Tracy Letts) starts snooping around, however, their sadistic chess match threatens to spin out of control.
Deep Water hits Hulu this Friday.