We should always try to remember that Ben Affleck is very, very successful. He is an enormously rich movie star, in a relationship with one of the world’s most beautiful and accomplished women, and has won two Academy Awards. In fact, he is the youngest person ever to win an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay (for co-writing Good Will Hunting with Matt Damon) and allegedly is so good at blackjack that casinos won’t let him play. So when his new movie with Ana De Armas, Deep Water, gets utterly trashed on Rotten Tomatoes, should we feel sorry for him? Or do we just all simultaneously think of this image of Ben Affleck when he gets word of the critical reviews rolling in?
Deep Water is a domestic thriller starring Ben Affleck and Ana De Armas. On paper, that seems like it should be a sure thing. Coming off the one-two hits of Rian Johnson’s critically adored whodunnit Knives Out and the final Daniel Craig 007 film No Time to Die, De Armas is currently riding high and about to star as the most iconic of film actresses, Marilyn Monroe, in Blonde. So far, so good. Ben Affleck just received applause for his role as a sensitive paternal drinkslinger in George Clooney’s The Tender Bar, and appears to be about to finally throw off the superhero chains that have bound him for so long. And besides, one of Affleck’s most critically acclaimed roles is as the loutish maybe-murderer husband in Gone Girl, so who can blame him for going back to that well. Deep Water was based on a 1957 novel by Patricia Highsmith, who also wrote the oft-adapted The Talented Mr. Ripley and the source material for the Alfred Hitchcock thriller Strangers on a Train. So why all the dismal 36% on Rotten Tomatoes?
We are speculating here, but a lot of it might simply have to do with the genre. Deep Water is part of the resurgence of a once-popular, but never critically respected film known as the “erotic thriller.” In the 1990s, these movies were incredibly successful at the box office (and uh, at the video store rental market); films like Fatal Attraction, Indecent Proposal, and 9 ½ Weeks were all huge hits. Incidentally, all three of those movies with made by the director of Deep Water, the Academy Award-nominated Adrian Lyme. But as the decade wound down, the public desire for intense psychological thrillers mixed with titillation and highly eroticized action apparently did so too. Apparently, not even the draw of Ben Affleck and Ana De Armas making sultry eyes at each other can completely overcome that.
It is notable that the reviews of Deep Water are not criticizing the acting talents of Ben Affleck and Ana De Armas so much as the lurid storytelling and controversial ending of the movie, which can’t really be blamed on anyone but Patricia Highsmith (and maybe Adrian Lyme). But again, don’t feel too sorry for Ben Affleck. He is sure to have a few Oscars and blockbusters (and Bat costumes) left in him.