Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Ira Sachs
Stars: Chris Cooper, Pierce Brosnan, Rachel McAdams, Patricia Clarkson
Running time: 90 minutes.
As with the recent Far From Heaven, Married Life is another melodrama that looks beneath the veneer of a happily married couple in middle class America in the post-war years and finds an ugly reality. But unlike the lush, garish colour palette and retro-visual style of Todd Haynes’ gorgeous drama, Married Life is steeped in the conventions of film noir of the ‘40’s and ‘50’s, right down to the dry voice over narration, its morally ambivalent tone and flawed characters.
Having grown bored with his marriage respectable businessman Harry Allen (Chris Cooper) wants to leave his wife Pat (Patricia Clarkson) for his pretty, vivacious young mistress Kay (Rachel McAdams). Rather than subject her to humiliation through a messy divorce, Harry plans to poison Pat. But when Harry introduces Kay to his best friend Richard (Pierce Brosnan) at lunch things become complicated. Richard himself fancies Kay and goes out of his way to try and talk Harry out of leaving Pat.
Writer/director Ira Sachs draws solid performances from his small cast. The always reliable Cooper delivers a quiet and restrained performance here as the colourless Harry, and manages to imbue his character with a touch of decency. Brosnan delivers his best performance for quite some time as the dashing Richard, who also doubles as the film’s narrator and moral conscience. He also seems far more comfortable here than he does in the big screen musical version of Mamma Mia! Both Clarkson and McAdams are stuck in fairly bland roles and given little to do, but both make the most of their opportunities to inject some life into their characters.
Sachs obviously knows his history of film noir, and draws upon many elements from classic films like Double Indemnity to shape the plot. But thanks to some subtle directorial choices, the film takes a couple of unexpected twists and never quite becomes the tragedy the audience is expecting. Peter Deming’s cinematography beautifully evokes the era, and the attention to period detail, costumes and settings is also effective.