Maybe you’ve got a pair of friends like Melinda and Vic. He: moody, possessive, bad attitude. She: exuberant, resentful, also bad attitude. You throw a nice party out on the veranda of your Belle Epoque manse, and folks are having a good time, drinking juleps and dancing to the R&B band playing by the pool, and then all of a sudden, bam: They’re arguing. One of them is flirting and the other is sulking, and she’s feeling up some guy on the dance floor. When you can pull him aside for a conversation, he makes a big show about how he totally doesn’t care, it’s no big deal. Meanwhile, she’s on her third martini and dancing on the piano.
Hulu may be marketing Deep Water as an erotic thriller featuring onetime celebrity couple Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas. But anyone who’s part of a large friend group will recognize the movie’s true subject: It’s a cautionary tale about a group of married pals driven mad by the one couple who just cannot stop it with the drama.
Deep Water focuses on a vibrant cadre of New Orleans parents who seemingly throw lavish soirees, garden cookouts, and pool parties every other weekend. But at every one of those parties, those poor friends have to deal with Vic (Affleck) and Melinda (de Armas). We first meet all these fine folks at one such party, where Mary (Devyn A. Tyler) tells a withdrawn Vic that “a few of us are concerned” about the way Melinda is all over the blond, single bohunk in their midst. “I just don’t want you out here looking foolish,” she says. Their conversation is interrupted by Melinda commandeering the piano and leading a singalong to “Via Con Me.” She looks so happy there, as the center of attention! Later at the same party, Vic threatens the bohunk, news of which soon spreads to the whole friend group. A perfectly nice cocktail party has turned, once again, into the Vic and Melinda show.
At lunch the next day, Vic’s friends have had it. “Speaking as someone who loves and respects you, you gotta rein Melinda in, man,” says Grant (Lil Rel Howery). “The fact that she’s comfortable flaunting all these relationships around us is fucked up.” Yes, Grant is expressing his concern for his pal’s marriage. But also, he’s expressing the desperation of every friend who’s ever seen an entire friend group hijacked by one pair of drama queens. It is fucked up that you two think you are the main characters, Grant is saying. Stop making us the bit players in your Adrian Lyne movie.
Sadly, Vic and Melinda cannot stop. Soon, at another elegant party, Melinda introduces the whole friend group to her newest rando, a handsome musician, and urges him to tickle the piano’s ivories as he’s tickled hers. Meanwhile, Vic lurks nearby, a morbid cuckold, watching from afar as Melinda and the pianist flirt, splash around the pool, etc. Late that night, Grant and his friends gather in the kitchen to smoke weed and eat cookies. It’s a wonderful moment of kinship, of buddies just having a nice time together, so of course Melinda and Vic have to interrupt it. Oh no, the pianist is face-down in the pool, and surprise surprise, Melinda is yelling at Vic about it. Even this poor guy’s drowning is somehow all about Vic and Melinda! It’s exhausting.
Eventually one of the friends, a writer named Don (Tracy Letts), gets, frankly, obsessed with Vic and Melinda. It’s sad to see his wife (Kristen Connolly) try to talk sense into him. “Have you lost your mind?” she demands, when Vic confronts Don—in front of their kid, of course, for maximum disruption—about Don hiring a private detective to trail Vic. “What the fuck were you thinking, Don?” But it’s not Don’s fault. When a couple sucks up all the oxygen in a friend group, it’s no wonder everyone else gets a little light-headed! I don’t want to spoil the movie, but when friends get too wrapped up in the shenanigans of that one couple, accidents can happen.
In a way, the friend group’s derangement about Vic and Melinda mirrors society’s derangement about celebrities in general. If you’ve ever been at a gathering where a celebrity unexpectedly showed up, you’ve experienced the way that the attention of every single person turns to them, as if they are a magnet and you all are mere iron filings quivering in the famous person’s field. And celebrity couples, particularly those that include Ben Affleck, are the subject of such relentless attention that it makes sense that Affleck and de Armas, then deep in their own celebrity coupledom, might have thought that this couple—who crave nothing more than to be talked about by their overwhelmed friends—are sympathetic and interesting. But they’re not. They’re total nightmares.
So when you watch Deep Water, you can enjoy the psychodrama or the grudge sex, sure. But I also want you to think hard about your own friend group, and the position you and your partner occupy within it. Do you make get-togethers all about you? Do you drink too much and argue in public and issue vague threats that disrupt the social order? Do you sleep around, or lovingly cultivate exotic snails in a dank garage? You might be the couple who’s a little bit extra, and you’re going to tear your friend group apart—with fatal consequences.