Went with Audrey to see Unfaithful today and mentally catalogued the standard visual vocabulary of suburban housewife infidelity used by director Adrian Lyne, who has covered variants of this theme in his previous films Fatal Attraction and Indecent Proposal.
The opening shot immediately employs the standard establishing images for suburban bliss: a shot of a beautiful home with a large yard, children's toys in the backyard (a bike which ominously topples in the rain), the family dog (standard prop), and the mother at work preparing breakfast. Later in the film there are other such tropes of domestic suburban life: crayon drawings by the child, tacked onto kitchen walls. As Ebert points out, "all movies involving suburban families are required to contain, a scene where the parents sit proudly in the audience while their child performs bravely in a school play." That scene occurs here.
The suburbs are where family resides. New York City, where Diane Lane's Constance Sumner has her affair, is the urban jungle where family has no place (think Jodie Foster in Panic Room for another example of family under urban assault). When a common household item makes its way from one setting to the other, Lyne makes it clear that those world's aren't supposed to mix (I won't reveal what the item is in case any of you go see the film).
Her loving, faithful family man of a husband wears sweater vests, or long-sleeve sweaters in shades of blue that only your grandfather would wear. He has a conservative haircut, is always wearing his respectable half-rimmed glasses, goes to a job which requires a tie.
Her stud of a boyfriend wears the types of sweater that male models wear, those with fancy knit patterns, and he doesn't put anything nothing on underneath. That way he can reach over his back and pull the sweater up over his head (I learned long ago that that is the way women like to see guys remove shirts and sweaters and other such tops) at a moment's notice before their next romp in the sack, or public place, as it may be. He has the type of long hair which Prada models sport, the eternal 2 day shadow, and a tattoo on his shoulder. Somehow he affords his apartment in Soho, despite evidence that he mainly deals in out of print books. Of course, he does happen to con some poor sucker out of a first print of White Fang in its original dustjacket for $1.50. He claims it's worth $4000. I guess that would cover rent in New York for about two months.
Anyway, the point is that Lyne is not exactly the most subtle filmmaker. Unfortunately, American film in general has always dealt with infidelity in one of two ways. Either the affair is justified because it's the result of true love (and the actual spouse is cruel or evil or uninspiring) or the affair causes vicious repercussions for the spouse who initiates it and everyone around him or her.
I thought of this today in particular because I caught the rerun of last week's episode of 24 and my worst suspicious were confirmed. Don't read ahead if you haven't seen the episode yet...
So it turns out Nina is the traitor. I had a feeling early in the season that she'd die, but then, last week, after the commercial mentioned that next week we'd find out who the traitor was, I knew it was Nina. That's because she had an affair with Jack. In American drama, the woman who has an affair with the otherwise loving husband always either dies or turns out to be evil. I've enjoyed 24, but it isn't without its flaws. This is one of them, that they'd fall back on this standard plot cliche. What's worse, having Nina as the double agent probably means some of the earlier episodes don't make much sense.
Of course, the series has taken lots of twists and turns. Let's hope she's pretending and isn't actually the traitor. I suspect, however, that she is. And if she dies, I guess another home-wrecker gets her just due.