It always pains me to use the word tandem “chamber drama,” but there you have it. Married Life is one of those. Set in the ’40s. Based on a book. With narration by Pierce Brosnan.
Hey, come back here! It’s darkly funny!
Ex-double-O is playboy Richard Langley, whose best friend and polar opposite, Harry Allen (Cooper), has just decided to leave his wife (Clarkson) for the much younger Kay (McAdams), a woman for whom “love” means “more” than sexual attraction. Yes, that’s right, he’s leaving his libidinous, attractive, attentive spouse for a vaguely warm, 30-something widow. Sounds like somebody’s got a Madonna-Whore Complex. Enh, to each his own.
Allen finds he’s too decent to put the missus through a divorce; best just to poison her and have done with it. Meanwhile, as Allen suffers over the details and the act itself, Langley attempts to seduce the widow behind his poor friend’s back.
It’s a very plain story, but one that might have you emerging from the theater asking yourself the same question I did: How many times, exactly, did my live-in boyfriend try to kill me?
The film, directed by Ira Sachs, was shot by cinematographer Peter Deming (who served the same function on two of my favorite movies: Mulholland Dr. and I ? Huckabees) and with the art and set directors he has lent the film a vintage-storybook look that’s quite handsome, if somewhat stiff.
The actors, too, are a mite stiff, not exceedingly variant from the roles they’ve played in the past, but all suffice. In truth, I always get a little irritated when actors perform gymnastics in films that don’t need them. Cooper’s tension, though, is palpable in the moments leading up to his wife’s lethal ingestion. Will she? Won’t she? These answers and more, now at theater near you.
Dir. Ira Sachs, writ. Sachs, Oren Moverman, John Bingham (novel); feat. Pierce Brosnan, Patricia Clarkson, Chris Cooper, Rachel McAdams (PG-13)