A strong blend of suspense, star-crossed romance and wry comedy of manners, Married Life is an unconventional human drama about the irresistible power and utter madness of love. Harry (Chris Cooper) decides he must kill hi... more »s wife Pat (Patricia Clarkson) because he loves her too much to let her suffer when he leaves her. Harry and his much younger girlfiend Kay (Rachel McAdams) are head over heels in love but his best friend Richard (Pierce Brosnan) wants to win Kay for himself. As Harry implements his awkward plan for murdering his wife, the other characters are occupied with their own deceptions. Like Harry, they are overwhelmed by their passions, but still struggle to avoid hurting others. Married Life is an uncommonly adult film that surprises and confounds expectations. While it plays with mystery and intrigue, its ultimate concern is: What is Married Life? In its sly way, Married Life poses perceptive questions about the seasonal discontents and unforeseen joys of of all long-term relationships.« less
Great Look At Life in the Late 40s, But It Isn't Funny
thornhillatthemovies.com | Venice, CA United States | 03/20/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"In all of the press I have seen, in all of the interviews I have watched, everyone mentions how "slyly funny", how "darkly humorous" the new film "Married Life" is. The joke must have gone over my head.
Richard Langley (Pierce Brosnan) tells us the story of his great friend, Harry (Chris Cooper). Harry, a successful businessman in New York, circa 1949, has a loving, even doting wife, Pat (Patricia Clarkson). But he has fallen in love with a beautiful young widow, Kay (Rachel McAdams, "Red Eye", "Wedding Crashers", "The Notebook"). Rather than put his wife through the humiliation of a divorce, of leaving her, he decides to poison her. Then, a free man, he can move on and marry Kay. But Harry makes one mistake; he introduces Kay to his great friend, Richard, a lothario like no other, and he is also attracted to Kay.
Directed and co-written by Ira Sachs, "Married Life" is a very believable look at the way people lived in the late 40s. The attention to detail is astonishing; clothing, furniture, cars all appear authentic. In one scene, they visit a movie theater and watch a lesser known Ava Gardner film. It's a nice touch. So often in films set in the past, they go to the theater to see "The Wizard of Oz", "Casablanca" or "Citizen Kane". Sure, these are extremely memorable films, but they weren't the only three films made pre 1960.
The four leads are all very good, all very believable. Pierce Brosnan's Richard narrates the film, introducing us to the characters, to the story and guides us throughout. He speaks in a softly modulated tone, giving the film the feeling of a fable or a fairy tale. His voice, complete with Irish accent, lulls us into the story, slowly helping us get acclimated to this world. Richard is a cad, but he is a bachelor, so we can't hate him too much when we learn he sleeps around. By the time we realize he is going to try to seduce Kay away from his good friend, Harry, his behavior has become well enough established that we would be disappointed if he didn't try to sleep with the young woman.
Chris Cooper is great as Harry; there are a lot of layers to his character and they are revealed in subtle ways, giving us a great look at his character. Why would Harry think it is more desirable to kill his wife than to divorce her? In his own twisted way, this shows the depth of care he has for her. They have been together for so long, they know each other so well, and he can't fathom the thought of divorcing her. But he also realizes he doesn't love Pat anymore. His passion lies with Kay and he has had a life so devoid of passion for so long, he simply can't let it happen any longer. He needs passion, he needs Kay.
Harry clearly recognizes he has limited resources for making this happen. It has to be something that looks like an accident, or natural. He could never shoot her, or use a knife, too messy and too many bad consequences. So he decides to put poison in her medicine; Pat suffers from ulcers and heart burn so she always has a blue bottle around. As Harry sets about the task at hand, the story takes on decidedly Hitchcockian overtones. Much like "Suspicion" and "Notorious", we know more than some of the characters and this creates an additional level of suspense. Add the tongue in cheek element, and the film becomes more like Hitchcock's "The Trouble with Harry" or "Family Plot". At one point, Harry, thinking he has made a terrible mistake, races home to prevent Pat from taking an additional dose of the poison. The film presents all of these elements well, blending them deftly and creating a nice homage to these films, and this era. Cooper is also able to portray the various emotions Harry experiences, sometimes on the turn of a dime, making his character complex and believable.
Patricia Clarkson is perhaps the perfect type to play a housewife from the late forties; she just looks like she fits into this different era and might have walked out of a Norman Rockwell painting. She is also the perfect compliment to Cooper, matching his acting style to a tee. They are both very low key, very natural, and seem to be a real couple.
It is also interesting to watch Clarkson play this character as she has to walk a fine line. One the one hand, we know she is being poisoned, know she is essentially a victim, but she maintains a sunny disposition and manages to make the character seem interesting and viable, and not the least bit pathetic. Basically, she makes a character that seems very simple, someone we have figured out, and still manages to surprise us. The fact that she knows Harry doesn't love her anymore, she states as much, and stays in the relationship, provides an example of her dedication. Too bad she isn't as aware of what her husband is up to.
Rachel McAdams has been off screen for a couple of years and her portrayal of Kay only serves to make this absence all the more noticeable. Much like Clarkson, McAdams takes a character that we probably have `figured out' from the first moment we see her, and makes us feel differently about the woman. Yes, she is an adulterer, but as we get to know her, we realize there is a lot more to her. Her character becomes flesh and blood to us and we learn she is a real human being. This is Sach's best contribution to the story and the characters; details. We learn a lot about each person through observation, comments, actions.
It becomes a little more problematic when she starts to fall for Rich. She is already an adulterer and now she is cheating on the man who is cheating on his wife. But McAdams is able to convey this conflict well, giving us real insight into her character, making us appreciate this decision as well.
It sure seems like I liked "Married Life" and I did like many things about it. Perhaps if people weren't so intent on talking about the `dark comedy' aspect of it, I would be more appreciative. It is a very good drama, but the comedy, dark or otherwise, is almost non-existent. Even the moment when Harry rushes home to prevent Pat from taking a dose of the medicine is played more for suspense - I suspect Sachs intended this to be a humorous moment. So, "Married Life" isn't funny, except for the occasional mildly amusing moment. In a black comedy, I expect some outright laughs, more amusing moments, and these don't happen.
"Married Life" is a good film, but it needs a divorce from the plugs it has been getting from the cast in recent interviews and press. Actually a divorce might just be too humiliating. These untrue rumors should probably be put to rest. "
Things Aren't As They Appear
L. A. Vitale | 12/15/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Other than being super slow in parts and occasionally predictable, I truly enjoyed this movie as it was a different take on married life in the 1940s. There is mystery, intrigue, deception and infidelity, not to mention that there are a lot of different stereotypes that one normally associates with certain genders that are broken throughout the movie.
Great acting by all cast member... I enjoyed the storyline, costuming and cinematography."
Outstanding Blu presentation; another Chris Cooper success
Steve Kuehl | Ben Lomond, CA | 08/31/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A Pierce Brosnan narrated period piece about love, marriage and in the end - friendship. I will preface this with a disclaimer - the high rating and bit about friendship is for the alternate versions of this film.
The quality of the transfer looked very good, and I think when they make heavy make-up films like this the standards have to be higher now. Making it look flawless on such beauties as McAdams and an aged Brosnan and Cooper (alternates) can be tough, but they pulled it off decently. The clarity was so good at times there were a few reflections of cameras, lights and boom mics in glasses, eyes, etc. The story was made to be very believable for the time period, but I have to give the kudos to Cooper for once again playing a great role.
But what makes this film is the alternate endings. DRASTICALLY different then what you saw in theaters and on the home release. The special features on the Blu are the same as on the DVD, so buying this Blu would be recommended for the period piece memorabilia clarity alone. Plus, the other endings showed as 1080 even though it says 480 on the box (and most alternate inclusions are lodef on Blu so that was nice). I wish there was a way to bookmark the film and splice in the much better ending(s). Rex Reed keeps getting quoted as saying this is humorous and funny but I would say expect more of a "simmering" slowly played film that has some fun scenes and maybe one or two themes of darkness, but is believably enjoyable. The alternate endings total about 20 more minutes and are worth the time investment."
Interesting, though not necessarily what you'd expect
terpfan1980 | Somewhere near Washington DC, United States | 09/10/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Given the general write-up of this film and some review comments I've seen elsewhere, I expected this film to be some what different than it turned out to be. Perhaps more like one of the alternate endings on the disc, perhaps not. Regardless, I'd have to say it wasn't exactly what seemed to be promised, but was still interesting to say the least.
Harry (Chris Cooper) is in a loveless marriage (at least from his wife's side) to Pat (Patricia Clarkson), but that isn't a problem as Harry has found the beautiful Kay (Rachel McAdams) and intends to be with her and live happily ever after, if only he can find a way to split with his wife without breaking her heart. Richard (Pierce Brosnan) knows of Harry and Kay's relationship because he's Harry's best friend and Harry has told him of his desires and his relationship to the lovely Kay. Unfortunately for Harry, Richard is a ladies man and he just can't let Harry have such a beauty for himself even if he is a best friend.
With that convuluted relationship between the characters, and a few other bumps in the road introduced along the way you'd think that a movie that promises suspense and intrique would perhaps play out in a certain manner. Ah, but such expectations are not necessarily what you'll get from this film.
Without spoiling the plot, suffice it to say again that what you expect and what you'll get from this film are not necessarily going to agree, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't watch the film. Not at all. Do watch the film for the character studies, for the attention to detail on life in the period that is covered, for the relationships and interactions between the characters and oh, yeah, also for the story that is delivered.
The performances from the stars are good. Chris Cooper does very well here, but if you are familiar with his work you know that could be said of just about any role you find him in. Brosnan does quite well as a bit of a scoundrel, and Clarkson does quite well in her role here too. McAdams seems a bit young for someone that would be interested in Cooper's character, but it's quite easy to see why anyone would be interested in and tempted by her.
A quick comment about the film on Blu-ray: my own take on the picture quality here is that the transfer is soft and not as sharp or well defined as one might expect on high-def media. I have not seen this film in theatres so I can't say for sure that this wasn't the look that the director was going for, but I'd expect that there'd be more details in the faces of the stars here and unfortunately that wasn't the case. Images in the background were somewhat blurred and easily lost and that normally isn't the case with most content on Blu-ray or seen in high definition.
I've rated this one a middle of the road 3 stars. Some may find it closer to 5 star material, while others wonder what was the point and where did the 90 minutes (give or take) that they used to watch the film go. Again, not necessarily something that would seem to have a big following, and much more likely to be a film that is somewhat quickly watched and forgotten. Of course that's just my own opinion, and yours may be different. If so, please feel free to leave a comment or write your own review here to help others that may be interested in seeing this film but would like more information and opinions before doing so."
All Is Not What It Seems
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 09/03/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"MARRIED LIFE will probably fare better in the DVD format where this at times disturbing view of marital status can be viewed in private rather than in the company of the throngs that resemble the characters depicted in this fine little film. Based on the novel 'Five Roundabouts to Heaven' by John Bingham and well adapted to the screen by Oren Moverman and director Ira Sachs, MARRIED LIFE is a dissection of the hallowed state of matrimony, and one that shows the creases and little holes that make so many marriages fail. it is set in the late 1940s, likely with the attempt to give some 'distance' to the plot, but the messages remain in comparing the tale to contemporary times.
Narrated by perennial playboy bachelor Richard Langley (Pierce Brosnan), we are introduced to Harry Allen (Chris Cooper) who apparently has it all - big house, great job, sex-driven wife Pat (Patricia Clarkson), country home - but Harry has fallen in love with military widow Kay Nesbitt (Rachel McAdams). Harry respects and still 'loves' Pat, but finds in Kay the love he has felt missing from his marriage. He confides his desire to leave Pat to Richard who is surprised - until Richard meets the beautiful Kay. Not wanting to hurt Pat, Harry decides the only solution is to murder Pat so that he can then marry Kay: he researches poisons and buys a potion that he plans to place in Pat's ever-present 'digestive medicine' bottle. Harry and Kay continue their secret assignations in both Kay's home and Harry's nearby country home, but things begin to muddle as Richard falls for Kay, and Kay's attention shifts to Richard, and the devoted Pat is hiding her secret lover Tom (David Richmond-Peck). As the twists and turns surface, everything unwinds and the ending of the story comes as a surprise to everyone!
The quartet of actors - Clarkson, Cooper, Brosnan, and McAdams - serve the story well and the flavor of the 1940s starts with superb opening credit images and carries through with the fine decors and attention to detail that don't seem to miss a beat in recreating the period. This is a difficult film to classify - it has comedy inherent in the absurdity of portions of the plot, it has drama in the core of the tale, and it has mystery as the surprises keep surfacing. The overall effect will be different for every viewer, depending on where in the marriage spectrum each viewer stands! Grady Harp, September 08"