Starring: Chris Cooper, Pierce Brosnan, Patricia Clarkson
Directed by: Ira Sachs (“Forty Shades of Blue”)
Written by: Ira Sachs (“Forty Shades of Blue”), Oren Movermen (“I’m Not There”)
“Married Life” is either an adult comedy with dark themes or a dark comedy with adult themes, although neither genre in this specific instance is particularly enjoyable even on a twisted level of simplicity.
Although you would be hard-pressed to find two actors more natural than Chris Cooper (“Adaptation”) and Patricia Clarkson (“Pieces of April”), the problems lie in the not-so-fascinating screenplay of Ira Sachs and Oren Movermen.
Set in the 1940’s and given a sort-of film noir ambiance, “Married Life” follows Harry Allen (Cooper), a hopelessly romantic businessman who wants to kill his wife. It is, of course, not his wife Pat (Clarkson) who he is in love with any longer. Harry has moved on and found a younger woman with whom “to be truly happy.”
Her name is Kay Nesbit (Rachel McAdams), and Harry is wild about everything she brings out of him. As a lonely widow, Kay has found a stable relationship that she can count on. As a married man, Harry wants nothing more than to leave his wife and start a new life with his mistress.
But in the 40’s, divorce wasn’t just something people do on a daily basis. There was embarrassment involved from a social aspect because people viewed it as a failure in life. So, instead of divorcing Pat, Harry decides that he will have to kill her to save her from the whispers she might hear after their split. How thoughtful!
All the while, no one has as much power and influence over Harry and Pat’s marriage as Harry’s best friend Richard Langley (Pierce Brosnan). Like a fly on the wall, Richard knows everything that is going on between all parties involved and always has the upper hand to get anything he wants, even when that includes Harry’s new gal. Brosnan, who is also the film’s narrator, is excellent in this role. He keeps up with Cooper’s cunningness both as friends and competitors for Kay’s love.
Although the acting is top-notch in this intelligent albeit soft-around-the-edges drama, one can’t ignore the tediousness that lingers between the characters’ separate stories. These minimal moments muddle the tension and also Harry’s point-of-view, which is the most ruthless and indifferent you could imagine. Some of the best parts of the film are when Harry, only moments away from poisoning Pat, can still give her compliments and make her feel like she is the only thing that matters to him. (“You’re prettier today than you’ve ever been,” he says without a smirk).
Still, Cooper and the rest of the acting talent can’t hold the film together on their own. With a story of deception, extramarital affairs, and murder, you would think the “Married Life” script has a lot going for it. But halfway through, you’ll feel just like Harry and want out in any way possible. Well, almost any way.