It is 1949 and Harry (Chris Cooper), a successful businessman, confides to his best friend Richard (Pierce Brosnan) he is in love with the much younger Kay (Rachel McAdams). Richard is used to playing the field, but when he meets Kay, he decides he wants to win her for himself. Meanwhile Harry has decided to kill his wife Pat (Patricia Clarkson) because he loves her too much to let her suffer when he leaves her. But as Harry plots and implements his plan, the other characters are occupied with their own deceptions.
Review by Louise Keller:
I Can't Give You Anything But Love goes the song, but love's journey does not necessarily travel in a straight line to its destination of happiness, according to Ira Sachs beguiling comedy of manners. There's a touch of film noir and melodrama, but what I like about the film is that like real life, all the characters are unpredictable and do surprising things. Besides, how well do we really know anyone - even the one who sleeps on the pillow next to us? For all intents and purposes, Chris Cooper's Harry and Patricia Clarkson's Pat are happily married. Even Harry's best friend Richard (Pierce Brosnan), who knows them better than anyone, thinks so. With its complex themes of love, betrayal, adultery and murder, Sachs' film explores the pursuit of happiness with a barrage of questions, including questioning the morality of building it based on someone else's unhappiness.
To Brosnan's lady's man Richard, being married is a bit like having a bout of flu. He thinks he is immune - until he meets Harry's squeeze Kay (Rachel McAdams), the bleached blonde with dark red lips and a welcoming smile. Even though there are only two years between Brosnan and Cooper, the romantic pairing of Cooper's Harry and McAdams' Kay never feels quite right, despite our being told Kay is looking for a father figure, after the loss of the two important men in her life - her father and her soldier husband. The match between Harry and Pat however is intriguing; neither is honest with the other, even though they love each other dearly. Harry thinks nothing of spinning a web of lies in order to spend his evenings with Kay, but prefers to think of killing his wife painlessly, rather than let her suffer alone and live without him. There's a mix of tension and amusement as we watch Harry plot and plan, wondering whether or not he will go through with it.
Ironically, the characters who appear needy are the least needy and visa versa. Cooper, Clarkson and Brosnan each play their parts perfectly and David Wenham is a welcome surprise as the lusty neighbour caught with his pants down. But McAdams is miscast as Kay: age aside, her character is as bland as her hair colour. The central relationship between Harry and Pat fascinates especially as we learn more and more about their characters. Set in 1949, the issues are timeless as complications set in, making it clear that love is both the question and the answer.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Married Life is an ode to Hollywood movies of the 40s and 50s, with its rich story, its post-war middle class mores of US society, its production design and its characters blundering around a moral dilemma. Ira Sachs pays tribute to his favourite period in film with care; the film's pace is slow by today's standards, often filled with spaces between the lines of dialogue which convey inner turmoil.
Chris Cooper is surprisingly effective in a role I would not have picked for him, but then casting against type is always a risk worth taking. Pierce Brosnan is excellent, even though his Englishness remains unexplained. Rachel McAdams is visually right, thanks to hair and make up, but her character lacks interest. David Wenham's character, John, is a tad underwritten (and his accent sounds tortured) but Patricia Clarkson is superb as Pat, the loving wife with a secret.
In many ways this is a connoisseur's film, lovingly made, with a fabulous soundtrack (if you like 40s jazz and high class pop) and some terrific scenes.
Email this article
IRA SACHS INTERVIEW
MARRIED LIFE (M)
CAST: Chris Cooper, Patricia Clarkson, Rachel McAdams, Pierce Brosnan, David Richmond-Peck, David Wenham
PRODUCER: Steve Golin, Sidney Kimmel, Jawal Nga, Ira Sachs
DIRECTOR: Ira Sachs
SCRIPT: Ira Sachs, Oren Moverman (novel by John Bingham)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Peter Deming
EDITOR: Affonso Gonçalves
MUSIC: Dickon Hinchliffe
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Hugo Luczyc-Wyhowski
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Rialto
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 24, 2008