Deception, passion, and some of the difficulties and restraints of married life get an exciting, artistic and absorbing look in Ira Sach's Married Life
Set in the late 40's, with the appropriate look and feel of the cars, restaurants, offices, homes and, of course, smoking evident everywhere, we meet Harry (Chris Cooper), who is married to Pat (Patricia Clarkson) but has now fallen in love with Kay (Rachel McAdams), while his best friend and confidante, Richard (Pierce Brosnan), has fallen for Kay also! Simple? Well, not so for Harry has decided to kill his wife rather than make her suffer the knowledge that he wants to leave her. Meanwhile, Patricia, as we discover, has a few surprises of her own to share with Harry.
Sachs, the co-writer with Oren Moverman, and the film's director, spares no expense to create a love/mystery/comedic story with the material based on the book, "Five Roundabouts to Heaven" by John Bingham.
In the program notes, Sachs says "I thought this story could be a very intriguing vehicle for me to explore both the intimacy and the distance that arises between any two people who share a bed over a long period of time!" The scenes of Harry and Pat's intimacy and moments in bed were filmed most poetically and quite close to reality. Chris Cooper, the star, adds, "Mid-life crisis is the cliché, but rapturous love is the feeling!"
Each of the characters plays a convincing role. Somehow, Ms. McAdams just doesn't register the passion and believability of a woman in love. Perhaps, the scars from the pain and anguish she experienced in her youth jaded the intensity of her emotions, but her acting seemed to lack the feeling this part required. On the other hand, Patricia Clarkson gives a sterling performance. Every time the camera is on her, we feel trepidation and upset watching someone who is going to be murdered.
Brosnan, as Richard, is both the cheerful friend and companion to Harry, while betraying him as he brings his special gift of masculinity to Kay in his attempt to attract her. Chris Cooper, whose performance as the tortured neighbor in American Beauty was pure genius, has the right face, behavior and devious ways to keep our attention riveted on him.. When he gets into his character, there are few actors who can be so convincing.
As a marriage counselor these past forty-two years, I can report that this is not all Married Life should be. But for a movie of ninety minutes duration, the story it tells will keep you totally in its grip.