Saturday, July 19, 2008

Married Life

Married Life is loosely based on John Bingham's novel "Five Roundabouts to Heaven". The premise is that Harry (Chris Cooper), a middle-aged businessman looked upon as staid and boring, falls in love with Kay, a sexy young widow, and wants to leave Pat (his wife) without hurting her. The film is narrated by womaniser and Harry's best friend, Richard (Pierce Brosnan -- who else?). Chris Cooper plays Harry more diffidently than he played the extremely confident Robert Hanssen in Breach, but otherwise the slightly old-fashioned, serious, slow-speaking middle-aged man is the same, and Harry, like Hanssen comes up with a plan to do the unthinkable (in this case to kill his wife to save her from the pain of leaving her). Things are complicated by Richard's lust for Kay.

This film walks a fine line between thriller and comedy in a meticulous and lush late 1940s setting. The two male leads really run away with this film as the screen play puts the women into unfortunately passive roles. This is not the fault of the actresses as the film is told entirely from the male perspective. The main theme running through the film is that appearances matter even between husband and wife. This theme covers everything from Kay's always meticulous make-up and hairdo to those uncomfortable moments while everyone is pretending something didn't just happen. The final scene feels like a slightly drawn punch that only half worked for me as Richard's conversion is unconvincing (otherwise this would be a 4/5).

In the director's Q&A after the film I learnt that the original novel was written by John le Carré's mentor at MI5, who was also the inspiration for George Smiley.

Ian's rating 3.5/5

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