Married Life Reviews
Almost forget the other movies and TV shows they have done.
The film begins with Harry Allen (Chris Cooper) and Richard Langley (Pierce Brosnan), two old friends that are having lunch. From just the first few seconds you're guessing that Richard will be the charming, Cary Grant type, and Harry will be his less-handsome friend that we'll ultimately end up liking more. But just as we're analyzing the characters, we're stopped by something Harry says-- he states that he wants to leave his wife but he can't bear to see her suffer-- so he'll have to kill her. After all, his mistress is stunning war widow Kay Nesbitt (Rachel McAdams), who rings with kindness.
Back at home, Harry's wife Pat (Patricia Clarkson) admits that she'd rather just have sex than an actual relationship, and we understand that the Allen's marriage definitely isn't going so well. So we of course begin to sympathize with Harry. Or should we? As the film progresses, Sachs turns the tables on us and what we thought of as the good guy may not be, and the bad guy might not be so bad after all.
"Married Life" boasts cinematography that shimmers with the warm, subdued look of Technicolor that looks great, but adds a light air of superficiality that comes to the film's liking. Unlike most films that take place in this time period, I didn't wish it was in black-and-white. It's hard to say if the film itself is a homage to film noir or a fine women's picture, but either way it wins.
The film has a touch of elegance that would in most cases, appear in a play, with well-written characters that are given good lines and chances to steal scenes, while keeping a sumptuous period setting that pays attention to every fine detail. Considering the film focuses on its four leads, it doesn't hurt.
But "Married Life" goes much deeper than a play. From the first few minutes, it feels light and airy, almost like a Woody Allen attempt at drama, but it gets a bit deeper and darker as it progresses, truly asking the question of what married life truly is and making us wonder how miserable the Allen's really are. Harry has the idea in his head that he'll murder Pat, yet he's so pathetic we don't believe he'll really pull it off. He wins a girl like Kay, but we're not sure how. By the end, I couldn't really tell if we're supposed to root for him or not, but either way, Cooper gives a great performance.
But the two women of the film are even more interesting. McAdams, who is one of the most subtly beautiful actresses at the moment as well as one of the most sweetly likable, transforms herself into what Jean Harlow may have looked like had she lived past 1937. On the outside, she's so perfect, but her fragility on the inside is played out with subdued tenderness by McAdams. Clarkson is certainly a knockout (and very underrated). She's a character that should be completely awful, but you can't help but like her sly, vaguely witty persona. She sins, but you don't really care. After all, she doesn't it better than her husband ever could. The ensemble is perfectly cast, and their performances are to die for.
"Married Life" is a hidden gem that loves the '40s more than any other period piece I've seen, and Sachs surely achieves something that no other director has successfully done-- made a modern day, Douglas Sirk-ian melodrama.