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Married Life (2007)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Release: 9/2/2008

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/1/2008

I learned many years ago, more years than I'd like to admit, to never trust, much less read, the text on home video cases. These pieces are always vague, make promises which they can't keep, and more often than not, contain spoilers. Trailers, on the other hand, are different. We can actually see some of the movie and we form our own conclusions. Still, trailers can be misleading. I hate to be one of those whiney people, but the trailer for Married Life advertises a film which is far different from what is delivered. Now, I'm not sure if I can place any trust in trailers.

Married Life is set in 1949 and stars Chris Cooper as Harry Allen, a successful businessman. Harry is married Pat (Patricia Clarkson), but after years of marriage, he feels that he's no longer in love with her, and that Pat is only interested in sex. (?!) Harry has met a much younger woman named Kay (Rachel McAdams), and he plans to leave Pat for good. He shares this with his best friend, Richard (Pierce Brosnan), but when Richard meets Kay, he is immediately smitten with her as well. Harry hints to Pat that he thinks their marriage is failing and she has a breakdown. Based on this, Harry concludes that if he were to leave Pat, that she would suffer greatly. Thus, he decides that he must kill her. That way, he and Kay can be together and Pat would not have suffered. But, little does Harry know that Pat has secrets of her own.

If I were to place Married Life into a genre, it would definitely be a drama. As is obvious from the synopsis, the movie features several characters, but it focuses mainly on Harry, and we watch him go through the emotional turmoil of his plan. There are many quiet, often completely silent moments, as Harry sits with Pat or with Kay, and we witness the stress that this man is under. The same goes for the other characters as well. Everyone of them is going through some sort of desperation. Pat senses that something is wrong with Harry and we he implies that he doesn't love her anymore, her reaction is very dramatic. Kay obviously loves Harry, but she carries a sense of guilt due to the fact that he's still married. Richard, a lifelong playboy, is befuddled by the fact that he's attracted to Kay. The movie takes its time exploring all of these storylines.

Does this all sound OK so far? The problem with Married Life is that it thinks it's a thriller. This is certainly the message sent by the trailer and judging from how some of the film is shot and from the score, this was the intent of co-writer/director Ira Sachs. At first, Married Life is simply a period drama film. But, once Harry decides that he is going to kill Pat, things change. We see him procure the murder weapon, watch him scheme, and then watch him sweat it out as he waits for the plan to take shape. Unfortunately, Sachs doesn't have a clear grip on how to present these events in any thrilling way. There is simply no suspense or sense of danger in these scenes. Even a scene which is clearly meant to be intense (involving Harry and the police) feels no more exciting than the rest of the film.

This could also be due in part to the portrayals of the characters in the film. While the acting is excellent all around, each of the characters comes across as very blasť as to what is transpiring. Is this a reflection of the period? 1949 would have seen a mix of high-hopes leftover from the war and a mix of stoicism. Is that why no one in this movie gets particularly excited about anything? Despite the fact that we are witnessing what should be emotional events (as noted above), the movie never draws the viewer in. (And as odd as this may sound, Rachel McAdamsí hair didnít help either. Itís so platinum blonde that it looks white. She looks like an albino or an evil Disney character. This distracted me in every scene which she was in.)

According to Sachs, Married Life is based on a pulp novel, but it reminded me more of a AP English novel. There are always things happening in the movie, and yet, we feel like nothing ever takes place. The characters go through changes and grow, but the proceedings are so sterile that itís difficult for the viewer to be involved. Again, the performances in Married Life are top notch, and when Chris Cooper says that heís going to kill someone, you believe him, but I recommend that you seek an annulment from this movie.

Married Life says ďI doĒ to Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 27 Mbps. The image here is remarkably sharp and clear. When we think of impressive Blu-rays, we often think of action or sci-fi films, but the clarity of the image here really leaps off of the screen. The picture has a great amount of depth, and many shots have a semi-3-D look. The image is also highly detailed and never soft. The colors look fantastic, and the background is filled with interesting shades. Overall, a very solid video package. The Disc offers a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Again, this is a quiet drama, so we donít get any overwhelming effects here. Crowd noises permeate the stereo and surround channels, as do musical cues. Some exterior scenes provide mild bass effects. However, most of the audio resides in the center channel.

The Married Life Blu-ray Disc offers only a few extras. We start with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Ira Sachs. Sachs speaks at length throughout the film, and while he's often playing catch-up, his remarks are scene specific. He talks about the actors, the locations, and how he approached not only the story, but the period piece. He also comments on the source novel. Next, we have three ALTERNATE ENDINGS, which run about 20 minutes and can be viewed with audio commentary from Sachs. All three of the endings are essentially the same with only slight differences. All three are far different from the theatrical ending. All of these endings contain a nod to the film's plot and two of them are quite depressing. Going with these endings would have really changed the town of the film, but it wouldn't have necessarily improved it. The final extra is that THEATRICAL TRAILER, which makes promises that it can't keep.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long