Fatal Affair is chaste thriller that fails to deliver the sort of lurid, trashy, entertainment the genre can deliver.
Fatal Affair is emblematic of one of Netflix’s most pleasant traits: the industry giant’s willingness to make glossy, relatively high budget versions of classic cable content. From well lensed dating shows to the resurrection of the romantic comedy, Netflix has shown an affinity for slick reimaginings of the sort of things people would churn through on cable. A staple of trashy cable television is the Lifetime movie.
Here, we have relatively famous people – Nia Long (The Best Man) and Omar Epps (Love & Basketball) – caught in the sort of lurid trash that would once have aired late on a Friday night deep in the cable abyss. Fatal Affair tells the story of a married mom and divorce lawyer (Long) who just so happens to meet up with an old college friend (Epps) at work one day. Epps is a personal investigator the firm has brought in to help on a case (“I’m a hacker!” he later blithefully describes). The two ease into an easy flirty banter and, after a short delay, agree to grab drinks. The banter evolves into flirtation and the flirtation into temptation as the two drink a bottle of wine and head to a club for a nightcap. Soon they are in a bathroom making out, but Long stops things before it can go further.
Predictably – this movie is not called Forever Love Story after all – Epps takes this rejection poorly. As phone calls go unreturned and gifts remain unwanted, Epps begins finagling his way into Long’s life. All of a sudden, he is dating her best friend and golfing with her husband as his stalker tentacles expand into her life. Soon, of course, things get Fatal.
Unfortunately, Peter Sullivan’s drama lacks the sort of sizzle necessary to enter the pantheon of lurid thrillers. A TV-14 rating means things must necessarily be kept rather tame, but this goes one step further. There is nothing sexy about this movie at all. The club Long and Epps visit early in the film has the heat of a middle school dance with hilariously chaste dancing. Long and Epps have no spark whatsoever.
The brutal banality of the script does the performers no favors. This is the sort of movie where the first conversation the audience sees between husband and wife includes the man helpfully explaining that his wife became pregnant with their daughter as soon as they finished college. The lack of creative writing permeates – it appears the only compliment Epps can offer Long is to note either how well she’s aged or how lucky her husband is.
I want to sit here and tell you that at least the actors tried, but they just seem terribly bored. Nia Long, frequently excellent elsewhere, seems particularly disgusted to be involved here. One of the film’s early scenes sees her unpacking her daughter’s childhood toys and finding a beloved giraffe. Long lazily tosses the giraffe back in the box, but it lands awkwardly half hanging out of it. We can see Long think to herself “should I fix that?” and decide apathy is fine. The director too chose apathy not bothering to reshoot the take. Epps at least seems to awaken during the film’s most ludicrous moments, but it is not enough to elevate the film.
I will admit I laughed a number of times, though always at the film, and never with it. However, Fatal Affair never musters the sort of zany stupidity that makes for the sort of watchable trash the genre can deliver. Even something like The Boy Next Door had the fantastic stupidity of a gifted “first edition” of The Iliad and the juice to a push a PG-13 rating to its limit. Fatal Affair needs not be mentioned in the same breath as actually good examples of the genre like A Simple Plan. There are certainly worst bits of drunken background noise than this, but you can do a hell of a lot better.
Fatal Affair is now available to watch on Netflix.
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