"A Wry Evocative Look at Love, Marriage and Infidelity"
MARRIED LIFE, set in the late 1940s, is a finely crafted drama with a wry sense of humor about a man trying to steal away his best friend’s mistress. The story involves infidelity, deceit and a murder plot, but the movie ends on a positive, but realistic, note that extols love and marriage.
Finely crafted and portrayed, MARRIED LIFE is one of those movies that plays like an excellent, literate theater drama for mature audiences. It’s not designed to be a heartwarming drama for people of faith and values, but it makes some astute comments on the human condition that are both witty and provocative. The story involves marital infidelity and deceit, so seeing this movie requires extreme caution and discernment.
Set in the late 1940s, the movie is narrated by Pierce Brosnan. Brosnan plays Richard Langley, a handsome playboy who nevertheless admires the solid marriage that his best friend, Harry Allen (Chris Cooper), has with his wife, Pat (Patricia Clarkson). The story opens at a luncheon meeting between Harry and Richard, who is surprised to learn that Harry has been seeing a beautiful, younger blonde widow named Kay Nesbitt, played by Rachel McAdams. Not surprisingly, Richard finds himself strongly attracted to Kay. Richard decides to plot against Harry to win Kay for himself. Harry concludes that he must murder his wife, Pat, because he loves her too much to let her suffer through a divorce when he goes off with Kay.
Richard and Harry plot to carry out their plans as all the characters, according to the production notes, “race towards their passions but trip over their scruples, seemingly well-intended towards all, but truthful to none.” Richard and Harry have a surprise coming, however, that changes everything.
MARRIED LIFE does not take an idealistic view of marriage, but neither is it overly cynical, despite an occasional satirical tone. Thus, all of the main characters at one time or another are comically surprised by the lengths to which their friends will go in order to fulfill love, desire and romance. The movie also shows the main characters making self-serving choices that bring pain and doubt to others. It often lets viewers form their own reactions to its story of infidelity, deceit and sin. In the end, however, the movie extols the importance of having a loving marriage, but in a clear-eyed way that acknowledges the goodness, badness, beauty, and ugliness in human nature. Only through a wise understanding of these complexities can we gain the ability to love. To paraphrase a couple of comments from the director, Ira Sachs, and Pierce Brosnan in the production notes, marriage is a great, even noble, challenge but it takes wisdom and hard work.
The good news about MARRIED LIFE is that it’s not a tragedy. It is, however, about infidelity, deceit and selfishness. Also, the question of what God thinks about all this infidelity and selfish deceit is brought up only once. The filmmakers may have felt they would be too preachy if they brought this question up more than once, but this question is a crucial one that can add depth to a work of art, if handled properly in a biblical manner that doesn’t whitewash the vagaries of human nature and the world in which we live.
(B, L, V, S, N, A, D, MM) Light moral worldview ultimately extolling the notion that it takes work and wisdom to make a good marriage with one positive reference to God that rebukes an atheistic statement, but movie often lets viewers form their own reactions to its story of infidelity, deceit and a murder plot, so the messages are subtle; one obscenity, one strong profanity and one light profanity; no violence depicted but man plots to poison his wife and implied poisoning of old dog; adulterous kissing and implied adulterous sex, plus debate whether romantic love exists or romantic love just comes down to sex; upper male nudity; alcohol use; smoking; and, lying, deceit and manipulation but people are shamed into stopping their immoral behavior in ironic plot twists.
MARRIED LIFE is narrated by Pierce Brosnan, who plays Richard Langley, a handsome playboy who admires the solid marriage that his best friend, Harry Allen, has with his wife, Pat. Set in the late 1940s, the story opens at a luncheon meeting where Richard is surprised to learn that Harry is seeing a beautiful, younger blonde widow named Kay Nesbitt. Not surprisingly, Richard is strongly attracted to Kay. Richard decides to plot against Harry to win Kay for himself. Harry concludes that he must murder his wife Pat because he loves her too much to let her suffer through a divorce. Richard and Harry plot to carry out their plans, but they have a surprise coming that changes everything.
Finely crafted and portrayed, MARRIED LIFE is one of those movies that plays like an excellent, literate theater drama for mature audiences. It’s not designed to be a heartwarming drama for people of faith and values, but it makes some astute comments on the human condition that are both witty and provocative. Most of those comments regard marital infidelity and sin, but having a loving marriage is extolled at the end.