This review originally appeared in Venus Zine.
The nuclear family?
Married Life attempts to make a social commentary, but goes sour
By Melissa Silvestri
Published: April 2nd, 2008
Ira Sach’s Married Life suffers from clichés of cheating husbands, rejected wives, and young chippies as mistresses of the married man. There is no real message of the film (‘50s “perfect” families) that hasn’t been better expressed in Far From Heaven or Douglas Sirk films. The talented leading actors endure an uninspiring, dull script that wraps itself up with no real answer, other than “they all lived happily ever after.”
Married Life begins in 1949. Harry Allen (Chris Cooper) is an ordinary suit, dreadfully unhappy with his wife of 20 years, Pat (Patricia Clarkson), and is plotting his move to leave her to marry his young mistress Kay (Rachel McAdams), who is more romantic about love than Pat. Harry confides in his best friend Richard (Pierce Brosnan), who narrates the film and is uncomfortable with Harry’s choice, which devastates Pat when she figures out his intentions though a rhetorical question he asks her. Harry also brings up the idea that a wife is making her husband a better man through their marriage, and inadvertently presenting him to a younger woman awed by his intelligence and life wisdom.
Harry is filled with guilt about hurting his wife, yet wants to start over with Kay. So he gets the idea that he should poison Pat, to allow her to die in her sleep without pain instead of being marked as a divorced woman and feeling humiliated. Meanwhile, Richard has been taking Kay out on dates and impressing her with his quick wit and not having Harry’s emotional baggage. He sees the same innocence and sweetness in Kay as Harry does, as well as a levelheaded maturity that allows her to connect with men 30 years her senior.
The film suffers because the characters are cardboard cutouts - they are forgettable and boring. The clichés of repressed suburbia are old and well-mined, as is the notion that life was only dull and stifled back in the '50s and that everything is so much more liberal and better now. Sachs and his co-writer Oren Moverman could’ve written this script in a weekend, and the lack of heart and spirit shows. It is a waste that can only be explained by having to fulfill some studio obligation and cranking out something safe but regurgitated from better films.