In Ira Sachs' Married Life, adapted from the novel "Five Roundabout to Heaven", the complex institution isn't much different today than it was in the film's setting, 1949.
Starring Chris Cooper, Patricia Clarkson, Rachel McAdams, and Pierce Brosnan, the sum isn't greater than its somewhat intriguing parts when it comes to execution of deceit and narcissism from an understated approach.
Cooper, very good in Breach, is the seemingly kind-hearted Harry Allen who has been married several years to Pat (Clarkson). The script, co-written by Sachs and Oren Moverman, figures on his plans for Pat after he is drawn to the much younger Kay Nesbitt (McAdams). In his scheme to cement his relationship to a woman who sees him as an emotional stronghold, Harry sees divorcing Pat as too insufferable.
Sachs fills this sometimes stagy enterprise with the formality, courtesy, and conventionality of the post-war time period in a middle-class setting. There is hardly any grandstanding, even as heads begin to turn.
This nearly four-character piece has some fondness into the motives of Harry's best bachelor friend, the handsome Richard Langley (Brosnan, who provides wry voice-overs) and Pat, the woman he believes is not fit to live a life of solitary misery.
Married Life appears to have fun dabbling into manneristic comedy, suspense, and melodrama, as it doesn't probe as insightfully as the halcyonic take on Douglas Sirk, Far From Heaven.
McAdams, as svelte as ever in a platinum hairdo and green cocktail dress, doesn't seem right for the part as a bubbly widow, allowed to be watched over at a remote cottage by the womanizing rascal Richard.
The intentions of this rather pulpy alms understands how little one may know about what our spouses really may be thinking about. That's why "our hands may not be raised". This charming slice of a union of two people may have viewers liking Richard and Pat much more than Harry as the mysteries of betrayal are spiked with a little poison.