Married Life is a curious film that defies expectations and contains several strong performances without ever really inspiring.
Chris Cooper is Harry Allen, middle-aged man in a marriage to a woman (Pat, Patricia Clarkson) who doesn’t fulfill him, and having an affair with the much younger Kay (Rachel McAdams) who he thinks might be the woman he was always meant to love. His best friend Richard (Pierce Brosnan) is supportive to a point, but when Richard meets Kay he decides he wants her for himself. Meanwhile Harry is planning to kill Pat, and Kay might have second thoughts about her affair with Harry.
Although this sounds convoluted, Married Life manages to introduce its characters and their foibles with dexterity. It helps, of course, that the four actors chosen to star are of the calibre they are. Cooper is wonderful as Harry, bringing his trademark ‘everyman’ to the role and making the repugnant actions of a weak man almost understandable. Clarkson and Brosnan more than hold their own in the supporting roles, although even these three are shaded in the radiance of McAdams.
McAdams continues to build a list of quality performances, often outshining the more experienced actors around her. This effect is noticeable in films such as Mean Girls, Wedding Crashers, Red Eye and The Family Stone. If she doesn’t go on to become the biggest star of her generation it will be some surprise. Although the film definitely plays on her relative youth and beauty and accentuates her qualities, she still sparkles with energy in a thankless role.
Although the plot waivers on descending into farce, Ira Sachs manages to keep it from doing so suggesting he knew exactly what he wanted to achieve and how to achieve it. His previous feature Forty Shades of Blue was highly regarded by many although I found it almost completely inaccessible, a problem that is partially but not fully overcome for this second film.
Considering the quality of its cast, it is disappointing that Married Life never captures the imagination. Although its machinations are intriguing in parts, the overall effect is never what it intends, and the film is strangely elusive. The performances aren’t to blame, and the overall tone is light enough to offset the bleakness of the plot, but somehow Married Life doesn’t get out of second gear.
Although it certainly isn’t perfect, for some Married Life will be a refreshing change of pace from the US Summer blockbusters – it would be even better for a quiet Friday night in.Rating: