Married Life

Ira Sachs

BY Robert BellPublished Aug 21, 2008

The question "is happiness founded on the unhappiness of others?” is one of the main queries posed in this film, which is part exploration of the evolution of love, part comedy of manners and part psychological thriller. The answer to the question is undoubtedly yes, whether intentional or simply inevitable based on material concepts of happiness and the inherent socialized ignorance that stems from sheer survival and evolution. Married Life keeps psychological singularity in check by ensuring that each character is aware only of their own perspective and demonstrates this through frequent misperceptions and inaccurate projections. It delves into the subtle nature of betrayal, jealousy and desire in relation to social niceties that keep the more unsavoury aspects of human nature in check. After meeting young and attractive widow Kay Nesbitt (Rachel McAdams), Harry (Chris Cooper) has a "grass is greener” epiphany, given newfound passions that have long since disappeared from his marriage to his sexually frustrated wife Pat (Patricia Clarkson). Deciding that his wife would be unable to bear the pain of a life without him (or more accurately, he would be unable to bear the guilt), he makes the decision to painlessly murder her. When Harry’s best friend Richard (Pierce Brosnan) learns of the adultery and meets the young mistress, he decides that he must have her for himself, using guilt, self-respect and sheer whimsy to woo her. The group’s blind interactions are consistently intriguing, with Kay’s belief that she can "fix” individual world disappointment and Richard’s handy self-serving consideration reinforcing the dominant theme of "sincere when convenient.” While the performances are flawless and the writing is certainly insightful, the film doesn’t completely succeed, suffering from a lack of dramatic ire when secrets are revealed and never fully finding the comedic footing it aims for. The DVD includes commentary from writer/director Ira Sachs and three alternate endings that leave the film with slightly different feelings. Going with the second alternate ending would have given an ironic spin to the tale, while choosing the drawn out first one would have ruined the overall impact.

Latest Coverage