Married Life

Married Life


Reviewed by: Martin Gray

It's 1949 and Harry and Pat Allen have the perfect marriage. Or so their friend Richard Langley thinks. Then Harry tells him he wants to leave Pat for a younger woman, Kay. But it's not her youth and beauty that's the attraction, it's the idea of an emotional commitment - Pat wants nothing more from her husband than the bills paid, and sex.

Harry tries to bring up the idea of divorce, and Pat takes ill. Terrified of bringing on a fatal cardiac, Harry looks for a kinder way - he'll kill her with poison. Meanwhile, Richard falls for Kay...

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The feel of this film is sumptuous - convincingly recreated mid-century sets, an evocative soundtrack, gorgeous gowns for the women and smart suits for the guys. The narration by Langley evokes Film Noir, and while the movie is shot in colour, the high contrast also suggests that genre.

Which is why the conclusion of the film disappoints. From the start director Ira Sachs seems to be taking us in a certain direction but - I'm trying not to spoil anything here - the action ultimately peters out. The unstoppable forces leading towards doom for one or more characters are, well, stopped. Having been teased with the promise of Noir, or at least Hitchcock - Pierce Brosnan is channelling Cary Grant as Richard while Rachel McAdams is the image of Kim Novak in Vertigo, right down to her outfits - we're let down by naturalism, a realistic ending that reflects life rather than delivers the satisfying kick we've been led to expect.

It's not as though the actors wouldn't have been able to put it across. Chris Cooper, as Harry, is as solid as ever, giving us a protagonist who's impossible to read. trouble is, though, he's so low key that there's no dynamism to the character. Patricia Clarkson is suitably impudent as wife Pat, but doesn't have enough to do. There's a real spark between Brosnan and McAdams, so it would have been nice to see more of them together.

All in all, this is a character study, a mood piece - less like LA Confidential's homage to Noir than Far From Heaven's salute to melodrama. It's absorbing in a quiet way, but not visceral enough to be particularly memorable.

Reviewed on: 18 Jun 2008
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How do you avoid humiliating you wife with a divorce? Kill her.
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Director: Ira Sachs

Writer: Ira Sachs, Oren Moverman

Starring: Chris Cooper, Pierce Brosnan, Patricia Clarkson, Rachel McAdams

Year: 2007

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: US

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If you like this, try:

Double Indemnity
Far From Heaven