Married Life

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner30/07/2008

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 87 mins

Superbly directed, thought-provoking blend of Hitchcock movies, 1940s pastiche and Bette Davis-style melodrama, featuring terrific performances from Cooper and Clarkson.

What's it all about?
Adapted from a novel by John Bingham, Married Life is set in 1949 and stars Chris Cooper as Harry, a middle-aged businessman who's agonising over how best to leave his wife, Pat (Patricia Clarkson), so that he can marry his younger girlfriend, Kay (Rachel McAdam). He confides in his best friend, Richard (Pierce Brosnan), but when Richard meets Kay, he decides that he wants her for himself and sets about seducing her before Harry has time to leave Pat.

Meanwhile, Harry decides to murder Pat, reasoning that her death would be preferable to the pain she'd feel if he were to divorce her. However, Pat has some secrets of her own.

The Good
Cooper and Clarkson are terrific in the lead roles, both striving for happiness in their own way, though unable to communicate their desires, despite strong feelings for each other. Brosnan's twinkly charm is put to good use and he achieves a weirdly sleazy kind of integrity, while McAdams delivers an intriguingly enigmatic performance, even if we never discover exactly what's beneath the surface.

Co-writer-director Ira Sachs makes good use of the fabulous 1940s period detail (even if the film in the cinema is actually from 1951) and he orchestrates a suspense sequence that Hitchcock would have been proud of. That said, there is a slight misstep involving the death of a previously unseen dog, to the point where you wonder if a dog-poisoning scene was cut to obtain a PG certificate.

The Great
Where the film really impresses is in the scenes where secrets are uncovered; instead of angry confrontation, everyone is frightfully polite and just pretends nothing has happened. Ultimately, the film is less of a thriller and more of a meditation on married life and emotional repression – indeed, it would make a good double-bill with Todd Haynes' Far From Heaven.

Worth seeing?
Married Life is an engaging, well-acted drama that's well worth seeking out. Recommended.

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Married Life
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Content updated: 09/12/2019 18:39

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