Reel Estate

Reel Estate: "Unfaithful" is a case study in why you should never move to the suburbs

By Virginia K. Smith | August 27, 2015 - 12:30PM

When a movie or TV show is set in New York City—and if the people making it are savvy—real estate becomes part of the story itself. In Reel Estate, we look at some of the more memorable domiciles to grace the screen.

Given this week's Love, Lust & Real Estate theme, how could we not re-watch 2002's Unfaithful? Obviously love and lust are its plot engines, but lest we forget, it also featured some pretty stunning homes, too.

A quick refresher: Diane Lane (also of beloved real estate rom com Under the Tuscan Sun) stars as Connie, a suburban housewife in a mostly-happy marriage with her husband Ed (Richard Gere). She's a stay-at-home mom, but he's some sort of high-earning power broker, and as such, they've got an enviable spread upstate:

According to a 1995 New York Times article, the suburban scenes were shot in an 1818 Colonial four-bedroom in White Plains, and indeed, whenever she heads into the city, we see Connie hopping on a commuter train to Grand Central. 

After one of said train commutes, Connie gets caught in a bizarre windstorm—the likes of which we've literally never seen in the city—that causes her to run right into dreamy, book-selling Frenchman Paul (Olivier Martinez). He invites her up to his Soho apartment to use the bathroom and get a cut bandanged up. Rickety, out-of-service elevator aside, it's clearly spectacular, with giant windows, high ceilings, and lots of pre-war details. It certainly has character—check out that strangely spacious bathroom:

He's a used book dealer, he says, but the apartment actually belongs to a friend who's letting him stay while spending time overseas in France. That's an awfully generous friend; per On the Set of New York,  Paul's apartment was at 70 Mercer Street, where most recently, a one-bedroom rented out for $7,950. Here's what the interiors look like today:

Granted, Paul does mention one book he just bought for $1 that he could turn around for $4,000, but still, we're skeptical (and clearly chose the wrong business if book-selling is really this lucrative). In any case, he and Connie embark on a steamy affair, Ed eventually finds out and shows up at the apartment, and things don't go well from there. (As in, really not well: Ed ends up murdering Paul with a snow globe, of all things.)

But one thing we picked up on after a second viewing: Besides Paul himself, part of the appeal of the affair seems to be as an excuse for Connie to come hang out in the city. Paul and Connie go on a series of cute dates downtown (Cafe Noir, East Village Cinema, etc.), and several mentions are made of how much Connie loves and misses living within the five boroughs. (She and Ed can't even seem to agree on whose idea it was to move to the suburbs in the first place.)

The obvious cautionary tale here, then, has way more to do with fleeing for the suburbs than it does with avoiding attractive French strangers. Of course, if this movie were to take place now, Paul's friend would have just Airbnb'd out the apartment instead of turning it over to an acquaintance, and none of this mess would have ever happened in the first place.


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