Our Rating: 3 out of 5
Reviewer: Rissi C.
After seeing the teaser trailer for this on numerous DVD’s and having seen it at the video store, my mother and I decided to give this little known film with big name stars a try. It’s certainly different, but if you’re not in the mood for anything brilliant, Married Life will satisfy your fancy for something new.
In an era when it was considered perfectly proper to be married to the same woman for better or worse, in sickness and in health, Harry (Chris Cooper) seems to have a problem, which he promptly shares with his best friend Richard (Pierce Bronson). Harry has met a lovely young woman whom he’s fallen deeply in love with and is determined to be with, since she loves him for who he is, Harry’s real trouble comes with what and more importantly when he should tell his wife, Pat (Patricia Clarkson). Richard advices that Harry just keep this new girlfriend as a mistress, but that was before he met his friend’s girlfriend.
While joining Harry for lunch at a club, Richard meets Kay (Rachel McAdams) and is smitten from that point on. As Rich gets to know Kay, he becomes fonder of her, and discovers that he wants her for himself. What ensues are love triangles, unexpected twists, deceit and four people who can’t seem to realize what is most important. Even with its big name stars and apparent recipe for success, this went straight to DVD as far I as can see it never even had a limited theater run. My first introduction was in a magazine interview with either McAdams or Bronson, and then I happened to see its release date on a website.
Set in the 1940’s or 50’s, Married Life has something unique going for it, that unfortunately cannot excuse its mature material and morally wrong themes. The costumes, sets and acting are all fantastic; Bronson has become a favorite actor since I have been seeing him in numerous productions from Remington Steele which is the role to watch him in if you’re looking for his earlier roles to his more recent project Mamma Mia!. Rachel McAdams is one of those actresses that chooses her projects with care (or so I’ve read) and despite her enormous popularity is also not an easy actress to get on a project. She gives a solid performance and maybe even is stronger or more comfortable than in her starring role in The Notebook although this role didn’t require as much emotion.
As we learn more about our leading characters it’s hard to pick a couple or even just one that you can root for, because each have their share of problems and are involved in deceiving someone on one level or another whether it’s of any great significance is irrelevant since untruthfulness no matter how you look at it is still lying. In Kay’s defense she never is unfaithful to Harry although she does have a physical relationship with him and knew he was still married, even though he planned on making her his wife it was wrong. She does share conversations or an evening out with Rich, but it’s never implied that there is anything else between them. Probably the easiest character to like is Richard who while not perfect at least isn’t unfaithful or dishonest in the same ways as other characters and Bronson’s usual on-screen charm make him all the more amiable. The most troubling part of this film is the thematic elements involving adultery and a possible murder through poisoning … whether or not it actually happens, I won’t say because it would give too much away.
There is a brief sensual scene between a couple, they remain clothed – he lays on top pf her, running his hand up her leg before they are interrupted by another presence. Another scene shows a woman lying in bed; we catch a brief glimpse of her backside (the camera doesn’t linger). A man plots to poison someone thinking it will omit unjust pain. There may be a handful of innuendos and profanities, but for the most part the verbal discussion is almost non-existent. Harry and Pat are constantly telling one another how much they love the other, which gets a little tiring when we see the life they have unknown to the spouse, but on reflection I believe both felt they did “need” one another for their own reasons which is where their only feelings came from.
Carrying all its numerous flaws, Married Life is an entertaining way to spend the evening. The music was upbeat and perfectly suited to the era and there are moments of complete surprise whether it was restraint on a character’s part that made you feel pleased at their decision or a joyous sequence that you can get lost in and actually care what happened next to the characters. The ending was cute and by the conclusion we can like everyone perhaps a smidgeon more than previously thought. Still you wonder if the character’s were really considering (and taking) their own advice when Richard says on two occasions, “Do you really want to build a life on another’s unhappiness?”, which is certainly something they each should have thought of long before they began the shenanigans they ended up in.