Married Life, Ira Sachs’ follow-up to Forty Shades of Blue, is a ‘40s period piece that aims to deliver Douglas Sirk-style melodramatic pleasures while also thoughtfully probing its titular institution. These two goals aren’t necessarily at odds, but each seems to somewhat counteract the other’s effectiveness, as Sachs plays his story – about the romantic complications of Harry (Chris Cooper), his wife Pat (Patricia Clarkson), his mistress Kay (Rachel McAdams), and his bachelor best friend Richard (Pierce Brosnan) – too straight for it to be a giddy romp, and yet too light and fluffy for it to be penetrating. Then again, regardless of tone, the director just doesn’t have much to say about marriage other than that it’s complex, and often fraught with disappointment, deception and conflicting urges, none of which comes across as particularly enlightening to anyone who’s ever been in a relationship (or seen a movie about one). Still, his cast is sharp, and Cooper in particular nails Harry’s buttoned-up yearning for passion, even as the narrative eventually drives him to consider somewhat preposterous (albeit pulp fiction-faithful) means for achieving his leave-Pat-for-Kay ends – and, more ridiculously, has him make one of the dumbest decisions in recorded relationship history by leaving lonely, beautiful Kay at a remote cottage in the care of dashing 007 himself.
(2007 New York Film Festival)