A review of Married Life by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: PG-13 for some sexuality and mature themes

Run Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

 

A stellar cast puts vintage spin on the ubiquitous underbelly of love and marriage.

On the surface 1949 is an era of post-war liberation and enduringly wedded bliss. Pat and Harry Allen (Patricia Clarkson and Chris Cooper) appear to be the picture-perfect couple, the envy of all their peers.

But there are skeletons lurking in their closets, as Harry admits to best friend Richard Langley ( Pierce Brosnan) when he confesses that hes found love with another woman (Rachel McAdams as the coolly breathtaking Kay Nesbitt).

One look at Kay is all it takes for the rapacious Richard to fall down the rabbit hole himself; voila! a messy little love triangle pitting husband and wife, friend and lover, cat and mouse.

Harry is desperate to untangle himself from his stifling union but cant bear to see his wife suffer. Which she wont, he reasons, if he puts her out of her misery once and for all.

Very Hitchcockian -- classic elements of the master of suspense in every twist of the beating heart. Plenty of treacherous scandal to mine but director Ira Sachs plays it wistful not wayward, sticking to essential melodrama and tidy infidelities while dropping narrative cherry bombs for calculated effect.

Set-ups are appropriately stagey, scripting is breathy with hesitation and conundrums are deftly observed. Period attitudes and appointments are deliciously spot on but the critical chemistry, most notably between Cooper and McAdams, never fully ignites.

What goes on behind closed doors? Only the shadows know.