This movie sat on the shelf for awhile before getting a quiet release in March of 2008, and it’s easy to see why it had trouble finding an audience. Despite a stellar cast featuring Pierce Brosnan, Chris Cooper, Patricia Clarkson and Rachel McAdams, it is a bland attempt at a Hitchcockian thriller that never registers a pulse.
We’re in the middle of a weird trend of suburban melodrama set a couple of generations back. Revolutionary Road depicts a 1950s couple unhappy in their marriage; television’s Mad Men covers similar territory across the late 50s and early 60s; Married Life explores infidelity and secrecy among a group of friends in the 1940s.
I’ve yet to see Revolutionary Road, but I’d be surprised if it covers this territory as well as Mad Men, one of the few shows on TV I don’t hesitate to call a true work of art. Married Life falls way short of that goal.
The fault lies not with the actors, who perform well enough considering the material, but with the poorly drawn characters and nonsensical plotting. The central conflict — one character hatches a murder plan to solve his relationship woes — comes completely out of left field, feeling far more like a plot contrivance than a reasonable development.
McAdams, who works far too seldom, comes across the best, adding a layer of sadness to her accidental femme fatale. She drives men to extreme measures not through design but simply because her wholesome vulnerability is so irresistible. But even her presence isn’t enough to make this film anything more than a failed experiment.