Monday, December 22, 2008
DVD REVIEW: MARRIED LIFE (***)
Films like MARRIED LIFE (***) don't come around too often. Ira Sachs' neo-noir was given a limited release early this year but I doubt many people are familiar with it. Which is weird given its tony cast: Chris Cooper, Pierce Brosnan, Patricia Clarkson, and Rachel McAdams. A highly stylized cross of Todd Haynes' superior FAR FROM HEAVEN and the work of Alfred Hitchcock, MARRIED LIFE is a low-key entertainment with a script that bounces back and forth between predictable and surprising. Set in 1949 in a suburb outside of NY, the film centers on Harry Allen (a tamped down Chris Cooper), unhappily married to his wife Pat (Patricia Clarkson, solid as always), who decides to murder his wife in order to spare her of the humiliation of divorce. Harry has met the alluring vixen Kay (Rachel McAdams, cute and dangerous) who he wants to run away with. The problem is that Harry's debonair friend Richard (Pierce Brosnan, oozing sex-appeal) also has eyes on Kay. The script by Sachs and Oren Moverman (I'M NOT THERE) is tight (the film is a crisp 90 minutes) but there is no depth to the story. We get some satirical jabs about domestic life in the early 50's but the tone is a bit scattered. There's a thriller element introduced about half-way through the narrative, and while there are a few moments of surprise, you can mostly predict where the story is going. But I have to give some credit to Sachs. This is an independent film which probably had a limited budget but you'd never know from the look of it. Beautifully shot by Peter Deming (I HEART HUCKABEES) with gorgeous period detail in the production design by Hugo Luczyc-Wyhowski (SNATCH, DIRTY PRETTY THINGS), MARRIED LIFE has a time time-capsule quality much in the same way that the television show MAD MEN has. Evocative of wealthy suburban life from roughly 60 years ago, the film is always visually impressive and all of the performances are top-notch, especially Cooper and Brosnan. Cooper has made a career out of playing the dour, put-upon schnook and in MARRIED LIFE, he's able to take his character in few interesting psychological directions. And Brosnan, who will always have that James Bond twinkle in the corner of his eyes, is smooth as brandy and very likable even when playing an unlikable character. MARRIED LIFE isn't a life changer, but it's a solid throwback to the melodramas of yesteryear.