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The late 1940s. Richard Langley, a bachelor playboy, narrates a story that starts when his best friend, Harry Allen, invites him to lunch to tell Richard he's in love. Trouble is, Harry's already married to Pat; he worries Pat would be hurt too deeply by a divorce. Then, Harry's new love, Kay, joins them. Richard is smitten, so when he finds out that Pat may be in love with someone else but won't tell Harry because she fears he would be too hurt, Richard can't decide if he should let all the cats out of the bag. He'd unite pairs of lovers, but he'd lose Kay. Meanwhile, Harry decides that a swift end to Pat's life would be more kind than divorcing her. He buys poison. Murder will out? Written by
oh what a tangled web we weave when we... sleep around
One of the main reasons to see the new infidelity drama, Married Life, directed by newcomer (though not first-timer) Ira Sachs, is Chris Cooper. He plays Harry Allen, the one at the center of much of the double-crossing that goes on in the story. He's married to Pat (always dependable Patricia Clarkson), sleeping on the side with Kay (Rachel McAdams, here platinum blonde), and his best friend, the womanizing Richard (Brosnan, he's 007 after all even to this day in a near neo-noir) is pining for Kay. He doesn't know what to do (and also doesn't know, apparently, that Pat also has an affair with a mutual acquaintance), as he feels happiest with Kay bit can't bear to break Pat's heart. So, he decides the only humane thing to do is to kill Pat.
Cooper, therefore, embodies this character, a shrewd businessman who finds love in a woman half his age, in a very subtle manner. While the direction is straightforward and the bulk of the performances (Clarkson, Brosnan, McAdams) are as good as they can be in this small ensemble, Cooper is the one to watch here. He will never let on- unless the camera is right on his tense face- that he's lying or deceitful, and his outward calm hides a dark desire for ridding himself of his total suburban drudgery with his significant other. There's so much that Cooper does- as he did in Breach- that elevates this as just another hit into the genre spittoon.
Married Life is above average, if not great, Hitchcock homage, however without the same lift of style (it's more in line with an old-school pulp drama). It allows all of the characters to be complicit, and for the guilt to be so close to the surface you expect it to boil over any moment; that it doesn't is half the fun. Isn't it funny, for example, how little Harry seems to care at all about the dog he buries (I won't say how, but you can guess its significance) and focuses on just the future with Kay? Maybe not, but there's plenty of ironic giggles to be had with these morally bankrupt characters going back and forth behind each other's backs. The actors also make it a near must-see, chewing on the dialog like it's a sandwich from a snappy deli.
At the same time, however, there's some minor disappointment this can't be something of an equivalent to the classics of cynical old. Maybe it's the ending, which I won't reveal except to say that it's a little sunnier (and a little more than a head-scratcher considering common sense with since-childhood friendships). And yet, I can't help but recommend the movie to those who love some sharp, crackling-cum-screwy affairs of the heart in nice clothes and bad minds.
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