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Married Life [DVD]
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Noirish, blackly comic drama, set in pre-WWII America, in which a bored husband decides to poison his wife and then leave her for another woman. Middle-aged Harry Allen (Chris Cooper) has become smitten by leggy blonde Kay (Rachel McAdams) but unfortunately he's married to the faithful, but emotionally needy, Pat (Patricia Clarkson). Realising he can't put his wife, or himself, through the public indignity of a divorce, he decides to slowly poison her. Harry's planned bliss with Kay takes a wrong turn, however, when he mentions the plan to his best friend Richard (Pierce Brosnan), who immediately falls for the beauty himself. As the convoluted love-triangle gathers pace and Harry's efforts become more urgent, Richard comes up with his own devious scheme for winning Kay.
Set in the late 1940s, and attracting a talented ensemble cast, Married Life surprisingly has slipped under the radar given the profile of those involved. After all, the cast features the likes of Pierce Brosnan, the always-wonderful Chris Cooper, the equally strong Patricia Clarkson, and Rachel McAdams too.
This company then come together in Married Life to explore the frailties and challenges of marriage, with Chris Cooper’s character soon wondering just how to go about leaving his wife, so that he can go to live with his girlfriend instead. That girlfriend also catches the eye of Brosnan, playing Cooper’s friend, and inevitably the complications build from there. Fortunately, director Ira Sachs (who also co-wrote the script) adeptly manages them, and it’s a film that gets through a lot, without ever losing you along the way.
The key strength of Married Life is its cast, who are on fine form here. The stand-outs are, inevitably, Chris Cooper, along with Patricia Clarkson, but it’s hard to fault the rest of the cast either. It takes one or two odd steps along the way, and the pacing occasionally gets a little uneven, but it’s a rich, bittersweet drama that’s got plenty up it sleeve. --Jon Foster
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Its directed by IRA SACHS and co-adapted by him and ORAN MOVERMAN from the 1953 book by JOHN BINGHAM called "Five Roundabouts To Heaven".
Narrated by Richard (Brosnan's character), you just know you're going to enjoy this story when you hear him casually say, "I always thought marriage was a mild kind of illness...like the Flu or Chicken Pox...to which I was safely immune". Brosnan's tone throughout the narration changes - at first it's sly and laidback and suave - so you're not sure if he's the good guy or the bad guy - or both - and nor do you want to know - because in this clever and beautifully revealing film, the finding out is half the fun...
And who out there in movie land doesn't want to see a film with Chris Cooper in it? Harry (Cooper's character) is in a stagnating but not entirely loveless marriage to Pat (Clarkson). Then along comes the young, alive and beautiful Kay (McAdams) who stirs Harry's very soul - but alas also grabs the loins of the caddish Richard (Brosnan) - his lifetime buddy and pal. Friendships are tested, plots are formed and everyone drinks loads of scotch and smokes acres of cigarettes and acts as if nothing is wrong...
The boys as you can imagine - given meaty material - are great. Warm, cold, up, down - Cooper layers his performance - and he slyly fools you too by doing so. Brosnan is still great eye-candy and effortlessly charming - caddish one moment - genuine the next - he plays his character both ways - and does it very, very well. McAdams is enough to make most grown men weak at the knees and Patricia Clarkson - who probably has the least likeable of roles - makes you empathize with her character - see her as a real person - a great performance from a genuine class act. In fact, you can just 'feel' how all the actors rise to the evolving story and you suspect they thoroughly enjoyed both working off each other and making this very intelligently written little gem.
Visually - it's period Americana - were in MAD MEN territory here. "Married Life" is gorgeous to look at - and very "Shawshank" in places on the outdoor scenes - an absolute blast to view on Blu Ray.
The real unexpected pleasure, however, comes in 3 fully realised Alternate Endings that are almost as enjoyable as the entire movie - and without spoiling it - they take the story to other places - and brilliantly too. Brosnan - in particular - is exceptionally good.
There's a commentary by director and co-script writer Ira Sachs, but it's a damn shame there isn't an on-set segment - because here's actors and a movie you admire - and it would have been just great to get the writer and director's perspectives outside of hearing the entire film commentary.
Not a masterpiece for sure, but a great little watch nonetheless and one that deserves your attention.
"Did We Build Our Happiness On The Unhappiness of Others...?" Brosnan asks towards the end of his voice over - watch this 'classy' little noir thriller and find out...
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