May 15, 2008
Review - " Married Life " (in Theaters) - By Roland Hansen
For comments or to submit a movie review for possible inclusion on Delta Films site
please send an email to Critics@deltafilms.net
Directed by Ira Sachs
Written by Ira Sachs and Oren Moverman,
Starring: Chris Cooper, Pierce Brosnan, Patricia Clarkson, And Rachel
Harry Allen (Chris Cooper) is a well to do middle-aged business man who is
unhappily married to longtime wife, Pat (Patricia Clarkson). But Harry seeks
"real" happiness in his life with someone who will love him totally for himself.
He finds this in a beautiful young widow, Kay (Rachel McAdams). Harry is
convinced that Pat is so devoted to him that divorce would devastate her to a
degree from which she might never recover, so he resolves instead to kill her,
and spare her the pain and humiliation of separation. That's a new kind of
mercy killing, a droll motive for murder. He buys poison and then plots Pat's
demise, calmly rationalizing that it is the kindest thing to do. Harry’s best friend
Richard (Pierce Bronson) meanwhile, is befriending Kay himself and
becoming more and more drawn to her apparently genuine niceness. But
things are not all they seem. Pat herself has some secrets, as we find out,
and perhaps isn’t as devoted a wife as we are lead to believe.
Married life captures perfectly the well-to-do suburbia of the 40s and 50s.
This film is wonderfully shot. Period details are rendered with precise care.
Everything from the musical score to the hair styles & makeup, clothing, set
design, wallpaper & props are perfectly suited to the time. Even the opening
title sequence has the feel and style of a 1940’s motion picture.
It is a well crafted and well written movie. By appearing to be a traditional noir, the film plays on the audience's expectations
of the genre but then turns out to be something very different, something far more sad, funny and soulful. By having the
traditional voice-over and haunting music at the outset, “Married Life” subverts the viewer's expectations and draws us into
a story that is utterly unique. To make comparisons to another recent movie, “Married Life” is some what of a darker,
funnier "Closer", but set in the late 40's. This movie manages to be at once droll comedy, gripping suspense drama, and
stylish 1940s period piece.
All the leads are introduced as archetypes (the unhappily married business man, the man about town, the long suffering
wife, the pretty young widow) but each not only turns out to be different than expected, all four go through some sort of
transition that deepens their humanity. They may be imperfect people and lacking in insight, but the audience feels
empathy for their struggles. The characters may be unable or unwilling to stop their most primal urges, yet we are rooting
for them to find some happiness all the way to the end. Performances are top notch, a true ensemble cast, who look and
sound like they are from a bygone era. Both Patricia Clarkson and Chris Cooper give wonderful performances in a story
which is intriguingly told and compellingly filmed. Pierce Bronson gives us his usual suave devil-may-care persona but also
provides some unexpected comic relief. And Rachel McAdams, this time a platinum blonde, is sweet, incredibly beautiful,
subtle, and oh so commanding. Definitely her most mature role to date. One of the main reasons to see this infidelity
drama/comedy is Chris Cooper. Cooper usually plays hard-nosed by-the-book military characters who are often larger than
life (Breach, American Beauty, The Kingdom). In “Married Life” he gives us a subtle soft spoken portrayal of a suburban
businessman who finds love in a woman half his age. Cooper imbues this character with humanity and compassion even as
he plots the murder of his devoted wife.
This was not a Hollywood blockbuster film
with a huge budget, but a gem with complex
characters you would love to have as friends
or neighbors, set in a time that is passed.
The film is engaging as a drama and often
clever as a comedy. “Married Life” is a fairly
melancholy movie about love, marriage and
relationships. Even the happy ending is
tinged with sadness and regret. Even so, I
would have to recommend this movie to
those who like sharp, snappy dialogue. As
Richard says at the end of the film “If there
is anyone in this room who knows what goes
on in the mind of the person who sleeps next
to you raise your hand”, look around the
theater, no one will have their hand up.
You will have to walk out at the end
regardless of whether it is Patricia or Rachel
you find yourself interested in.