Married Life (2008)

Rated: PG-13 for some thematic elements and a scene of sexuality
Length: 90 minutes
Grade: DCAB+=B
Budget: $12 million
Box Office: $2.4 million (1.5 U.S., 0.9 Intl.)

Written and Directed by: Ira Sachs, who previously hasn’t made anything recognizable, although the story comes from a 50s era John Bingham pulp novel.
Starring: Chris Cooper, Patricia Clarkson, Rachel McAdams, Pierce Brosnan, and David Wenham.

Feeling trapped in a solid but loveless marriage, Harry is on the brink of leaving his wife for the younger and more emotionally satisfying Kay, but he doesn’t know how to spare his wife (Pat) the pain. So he plans to poison her to spare her the grief. Meanwhile, Harry’s philandering best friend (Richard) goes to meet the young Kay and winds up trying to seduce her away from Harry to himself.

Entertainment Value: D
Boring. Really, really boring. But more than boring, it was unbelievable. I know they were trying to do an homage piece to the film noirs of the 30s and 40s, but there’s a good reason we don’t make films like this anymore. They’re not believable, or at least the characters in this case are not.

Superficial Content: C
Drugs/Alcohol C, Sexuality B, Violence B, Language A, Illegality C
Although this is a movie about infidelity, very little is shown except some back nudity and a few scenes with implied sexuality. The language is fairly clean. The people drink alcohol pretty regularly, and there is also plenty of smoking. A man tries to poison his wife through her medicine. I’m not sure quite why this is PG-13, really. I’d say PG-8, maybe PG-10. It’s far more tame than the CW, not that that should be seen as an endorsement of the CW.
Significant Content: A
Here’s where this movie shines, because, even though it’s a story about intended infidelity, it’s a movie that ultimately winds up endorsing marriage wholeheartedly, both for those who want to stray and for those who have never thought they’d bother marrying. Clearly, the movie is teaching that you don’t know what you’ve got until you nearly lose it.

Artistic/Thought Value: B+
Although the plot and characters weren’t believable, the general feel of a film noir was very well accomplished here. Also, the thought value of the movie was tremendous. I thought the insight about how mistresses want to steal away the man who is now the result of so many years of formation by his loyal wife was wonderful. It’s also sort of interesting because it inverts the normal ideas about why men cheat since Harry is looking for an emotional connection, not just physical sex, which his wife quite adequately provides.

Discussion Questions:
~The movie opens by calling marriage a kind of disease one might wish to avoid. Do you know anyone who lives life as if this is true? Is this something that women typically think?
~Do you think men cheat for sex or for something other than sex, such as emotional connection or admiration? Is Pat responsible for putting Harry at risk of wanting to leave her?
~Does Harry love Pat? Why does he intend to kill her? Is this a selfish plan or a generous one?
Why don’t Harry and Pat have children? Would children have changed the dynamics in this movie significantly?
~“A woman needs someone to love, and to be loved by someone.” Is this true? Is it more true of women than of men?
~“I’m not sure you can build happiness on the unhappiness of someone else.” What does this mean, and what applications does it have for your own life?
~How does Richard use his insights to manipulate people? Does this seem to fit the character of a playboy?
~Do you think that when younger women come to tempt middle-aged men away from their wives that it’s greed on their part to want a finished product they’ve done nothing to earn?
~To what degree is marriage necessary for real happiness? Does it ever interfere with real happiness?
~Why is it so intoxicating to experience someone else being in love with you? Is this a form of worship?
Overall Grade: B
Great themes and discussion material for a movie you pretty much have to force yourself to watch all the way through.

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