- Rated PG-13
- Buy the DVD
All photos © Sony Pictures Classic
Reviewed by David Medsker
here is far too much talent in “Married Life” for the movie to be so dull. The four leads consist of an Oscar winner, and Oscar nominee, James Bond, and one of the prettiest young women in Hollywood. And they’re all unspeakably boring. Actors can only do so much with a bad story, though, and director Ira Sachs is so hung up on showing everyone smoking cigarettes in every scene – the movie is set in the 1940s – that he forgets to give his characters something, anything, interesting to say or do.
The story is told by businessman and playboy Richie Langley (Pierce Brosnan). His friend Harry (Chris Cooper) invites him to lunch and tells him that he’s having an affair with a young lass named Kay (Rachel McAdams), but he has no idea how to break the news to his wife Pat (Patricia Clarkson), convinced that she would be devastated and he does not want her to suffer. Guided by his infallible logic, Harry concludes that the best thing for everyone would be to kill Pat. Meanwhile, Richie has designs to steal Kay away from Harry, unaware of the drastic plans that Harry has set in motion so he can start his new life with Kay. Likewise, Harry is unaware that Pat has designs of her own.
Infidelity. Betrayal. Death. Fascinating, complicated topics all, but not here. The action is rather bloodless, with none of the leads expressing anything resembling real emotion. The dialogue is just as leaden; Sachs is clearly in love with his line about building your happiness on the unhappiness of someone else, but the words fall like a lead balloon every time they’re uttered (three, by my count). There are also a dozen or so threads left dangling. Harry and Pat’s daughter-in-law only appears onscreen twice, but she is clearly simmering in her own juices. Is their marriage also flirting with disaster? Does Harry really not notice anything out of the ordinary when he comes home early? Why does Richie – and also his narration – disappear for nearly a third of the movie? Lastly, does anyone really not notice that Harry is the most conspicuous would-be murderer in movie history?
“Married Life” appears to be going for a noir spin on the marital oppression of the mid-1900s, “Far from Heaven” with more evil. (Both movies, curiously, star Clarkson.) It does not succeed. The murder plot is all sorts of clumsy, the characters are paper-thin, and all attempts at sly humor miss the mark. I’d say that the characters deserved what happened to them, but in truth, I couldn’t have cared less what happened to any of them.
Single-Disc DVD Review:
Given the movie’s soft performance at the box office ($1.5 million, with a $12 million budget), it’s not surprising to find that the amount of extra features for the DVD would be scant. For fans of the movie, though, they are intriguing. Director Ira Sachs contributes an audio commentary, and there are three alternate endings, which range from pitch-black to a darker shade of gray. While we’re all for dark endings, the darkest ending here goes a bit too far, though the fact is that the producers made the right decision by not using any of them.