is about how we fool ourselves for love. While it may be true that love is many things to many different people, for it to last satisfyingly in the film's titular sense, it needs to become about shared trust and companionship (and of course, the occasional hummer
after a hard day). We’re so often fooled by the endorphin rush associated with the first 18 months of love (scientists say after that we better have something solid) that we often forget that like many things, the real advantages to loving someone are considerably more subtle than the earlier fireworks. At least that’s what they tell me. I still get tingly every time I look at Scarlett Johansson
and it’s been considerably longer than 18 months.
) is a guy who has figured out that being married to Pat
) for oh so many years isn’t the constant rush it was at first. Generally it’s just...comfortable. Pat
espouses the reasonable but unromantic idea that love is sex+companionship and that’s about it. Harry
is beset with obsessing over the absence of the excitement of young love (plus, it’s 1949 and I think they were just like that then….weirdos.) He wants to feel the type of love that showed in the movies that were ever present back then. Pat
may be best friends and
lovers but Harry
, almost certainly feeling a fear of middle age and never having been exposed to the term 'mid-life crisis'
thinks he needs something more. So, like so many people in so many times in so many places, rather than try to fix what he already has, he makes that cliched and bad decision to seek that sort of excitement elsewhere, namely in the arms of the much younger hottie Kay
.) Trouble is, while he may not be thinking much clearer than my dad was when he bought that red Ferrari instead of paying for a second year of college for me, Harry
is a compassionate guy. He knows that Pat
is completely devoted to him and he can’t stand the idea of breaking her heart but he also can’t be away from Kay
. So he does what any sane guy would do...he plans to kill his wife to stop her from feeling the pain of separation from him.
This is precisely where “Married Life”
faltered for me with the loud screeching record needle scraping off the vinyl sound from a thousand bad trailers. I know it’s the crux of the whole thing, the element that removes it from the thousands of routine stories of the cheating spouses out there that we hear about every day, but I can’t see this guy, with everything else we know about his nature, being that short sighted. Selfish, sure, but murderously so?
Things are further complicated by the presence of Harry
’s playboy friend Richard
.) He serves as the narrator of the piece (which only makes sense if you watch the first of three alternate endings on the disk) and is also a secret troublemaker, also known as, a man. Once Harry
, he is completely stricken and can’t stop himself from being, like his name says, a Dick. He takes his time in a calculated way going to visit young Kay
and wooing her with excitement and a question: Is building your happiness upon the unhappiness of others possible? This complicates for Kay
her relationship with Harry
and then later echoes repeatedly elsewhere in the film.
Things are even murkier yet as even Pat
has secrets that drastically affect the picture as a whole but by the time things swing back around to a conclusion, her own shameful clandestinity is written off without explanation. Perhaps, like so many other things in the film, we’re expected to believe that they are rationalized away by people who apparently routinely do that to almost anything morally complex that they are forced to deal with. Maybe I'm an optimist about human behavior and I'll even concede that we're a giant load of rationalizing jack-asses a lot of the time but I do have trouble with some of the conclusions these characters come to.
While criticizing the decisions of the characters I most certainly can't do the same for the acting. Everyone shines here as you'd expect from such a stellar cast. Cooper
especially really gives it his all, especially in the rather moving last ten minutes (and in the alternate ending as well.) Even Brosnan
, who has always been a go-to guy for charming (assuming George Clooney
is booked) but has never really sold me as a serious actor before, delivers the goods.
The extras consist only of a trailer, commentary by the director and co-writer Ira Sachs
, and three slightly different versions of a 8 minute or so alternate ending "16 years later" epilogue that takes the film on to a much darker conclusion but one I felt thematically brought things to a more satisfying close. Two of them did, anyways. I can only imagine that the studio thought it better to end with more of an upbeat, but this was a mistake and the story is damaged by the decision from where I sit (although apparently this consensus isn’t shared by many others). Watch it with the first alternate ending and if it suits you better, then just pretend that’s how it was supposed to be like I did.
In many ways Richard
’s question about happiness to Kay
is the theme of “Married Life”
but it’s not a question that the film answers which reflects the confusion about our own means to happiness that is in and of itself an unanswerable question. Ultimately, Dick
's remark is a pointless query that only serves to further the self-serving needs of the characters who use it here. Because true or not, like I keep hammering home here, it's a rationalization that we make to get what we want. Like the film’s ending line says, “It’s funny, isn’t it, what we do for love.”
No, not funny really. Actually, it’s generally pretty tragic and horrible. At least, that’s what I hear.
CLICK HERE TO BUY "MARRIED LIFE" ON DVD