All-Amer­i­can mar­riage

MAR­RIED LIFE Di­rected by Ira Sachs. Star­ring Pierce Bros­nan, Chris Cooper, Pa­tri­cia Clark­son, Rachel McA­dams, David Wen­ham 12A cert, Cineworld/IMC Dún Laoghaire/ Screen, Dublin, 90 min

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film Reviews - MICHAEL DWYER

YOU DON’T need ex­tra­or­di­nary pow­ers of in­tu­ition to an­tic­i­pate that a movie ti­tled Mar­ried Life could well be some­thing other than an un­crit­i­cal cel­e­bra­tion of that sub­ject. Just in case you thought oth­er­wise, the film’s nar­ra­tor, Richard (Pierce Bros­nan) breezily de­clares at the out­set: “I al­ways thought mar­riage was an ill­ness, like the flu or chick­en­pox, to which I was im­mune.” Nor do you get any bonus points for clair­voy­ance if that line does not prompt the sus­pi­cion that he will have caught the mar­i­tal bug by the last reel.

The tale be­gins when Richard’s best friend, Harry (Chris Cooper) makes the guilt-rid­den con­fes­sion to him that he is plan­ning to leave his wife, Pat (Pa­tri­cia Clark­son) for a much younger wo­man, Kay (Rachel McA­dams).

Harry is so naive that he fool­ishly en­cour­ages Richard to visit Kay, a lonely widow at her sub­ur­ban home, even though Richard is a se­rial wom­an­iser played by Bros­nan at his smoothest and most ur­bane. Kindly bring­ing Kay a col­lec­tion of books as a gift, Richard is im­me­di­ately smit­ten by her sweet-na­tured per­son­al­ity and plat­inum blonde ap­pear­ance.

Mar­ried Life is set in 1949. Just in case you don’t catch that in the nar­ra­tion, or if you can’t guess the pe­riod from the de­tailed pro­duc­tion de­sign, writer-di­rec­tor Ira Sachs has all the char­ac­ters chain-smok­ing as con­spic­u­ously as in the early-1960s-set TV se­ries, Mad Men.

Sachs bor­rows heav­ily from themes and mo­tifs pop­u­lar in thrillers from the era in which his film takes place. De­spite those abun­dant film ref­er­ences (to Hitch­cock pic­tures in par­tic­u­lar), Mar­ried Life feels closer to soap opera than film noir as Sachs en­tan­gles the sto­ry­line with rev­e­la­tions that prove rather less sur­pris­ing than he imag­ined or hoped. His approach is so know­ing that the viewer will know what to ex­pect.

Ex­pec­ta­tions are raised by just a glimpse at the cast list, and the movie ben­e­fits sig­nif­i­cantly from its re­doubtable lead­ing play­ers and the ap­par­ent ease with which they tran­scend the lim­i­ta­tions of their ma­te­rial.

Clark­son, who is never less than in­ter­est­ing, gives a de­li­ciously play­ful per­for­mance as a wo­man play­ing the role of de­voted wife. How­ever, her for­mi­da­ble pres­ence is a re­minder of her mem­o­rable par­tic­i­pa­tion in Far from Heaven, a su­pe­rior, full-blown homage to 1950s screen melo­drama treated with pas­sion­ate af­fec­tion and vir­tu­oso style by Todd Haynes.

Mr Smooth: Pierce Bros­nan in Mar­ried Life

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