Sleeping around in movie-land is almost always a no-no. If you’re single, James Bond or some other fantasy based character, you can usually get away with it – and still have a good time.
But, if you’re married, have a kid or two, a successful career and various other adult responsibilities then, beware, infidelity is just waiting to screw up your life and provide audiences with another reason to get stuck into a Hollywood blockbuster. Fatal Attraction is the prime, and possibly the best, example of infidelity gone absolutely nuts. What Michael Douglas’ character ever saw in the Glen Close character is beyond me, but she does help to make a good point: cheating/sleeping around on your spouse usually never has a happy ending.
In Derailed, Charles Schine (Clive Owen) is a married man with a semi-successful career, a wife he’s growing further apart from everyday and a daughter with type-1 diabetes (the most dangerous kind, we’re told). His home environment is stifling and Charles is unhappy. So, when an attractive and equally successful business woman (Jennifer Aniston) initiates a relationship on the train to work, Charles doesn’t hesitate getting involved with her. Unfortunately, as these things go, the illicit relationship soon takes a tragic turn.
I thoroughly enjoyed Derailed, quite possibly more than I care to admit, because it builds in intensity much in the same way that Frantic with Harrison Ford does. Starting slowly, the film develops our main character, his relationship with his wife and daughter, his distress when he is thrown off a major account at work and the introduction of his mistress. These events unfold at such a slow pace that I began to question whether the film was in fact a thriller at all; I thought I might have read the blurb incorrectly. Fortunately, just as these thoughts were beginning to take hold, the defining moment of the film took place and threw Charles and his lovers’ life into disarray.
What a moment! The way in which director Mikael HÃ¥fstrÃ¶m springs it on his audience, and the violence that is used in its portrayal, had me watching in disgusted fascination. It is brutal “I don’t want to see this but can’t stop myself from watching” filmmaking. I would love to go into more detail but I won’t. This scene turns the whole movie around and, much like Frantic, Charles is forced into a situation he has no control over.
Charles is an ordinary man, and as such, he tends to handle the events in the film as an ordinary man would. In other words, badly. But this is where Derailed’s meatiest chunks lie. As an audience we identify with him from the outset; he’s your average Joe that has made a mistake, and when his family is threatened; he is ill-equipped to handle the situation he’s gotten himself into. The character, for the majority of the film, takes action in a clumsy and frustrating manner but when he eventually gets it right it’s a great watch (although, perhaps a tad unrealistic).
Friends star Jennifer Aniston takes a more dramatic turn in this role and it strengthens her repertoire as a performer. With talk of a series of Friends reunion shows – four one-hour shows have been planned – it would seem that her fellow cast-mates’ careers aren’t on the up-and-up as much as they would have liked (Matt Le Blanc’s Joey is truly horrible) but Aniston proves, with this film, that she has the clout to stick it out on her own.
Infidelity in the feature film is almost always a cautionary moral tale that works as well as it does because, regardless of who you are or what your circumstances may be, we’ve all thought about crossing that line. Derailed succeeds for the majority of its running time, and, although it has a laughable stereotyped performance from rapper Xzibit, and could have ended a scene earlier, I found it to be an enjoyable thriller.