21 July, 2008

It's funny what we do for love

So here's the thing.

I never notice when there's a filmmaker attending a film festival screening. So it was a surprise when the screening of Married Life started with someone introducing Ira Sachs, the co-writer and director of the film. I always feel a little uncomfortable when a filmmaker is present, largely because I worry "what if the film isn't good? How horrible will that be for the filmmaker?" Thankfully, it's not a problem we needed to worry about with Married Life (see the trailer here), which right from the opening title sequence (constructed out of images that could have been cut from a 1940s magazine) was clearly going to be a wonderful entertainment.

I'd not heard of the film before, nor the director, and solely went because of it had an interesting and talented cast (Chris Cooper, Patricia Clarkson, Pierce Brosnan, and Rachel McAdams) and the write-up in the festival programme sounded interesting. Chris Cooper, who is always worth watching, stars as a married man who starts an affair with a girl nearly half his age (McAdams, who is usually terribly beautiful, but is quite stunning in 1940s styles). Cooper does still care about his wife (Clarkson), so decides that leaving her will be too cruel. The only choice he has left is to find a painless way to kill her. Meanwhile, Cooper's best friend (Pierce Brosnan, playing a womaniser in a real stretch from his previous roles) tries to seduce the young McAdams.

It's a nice concept for a movie, with a strong film noir storyline combined with a fascinating domestic drama. Plus, Ira Sachs is clearly aware of the humour in the whole "husband tries to murder his wife to avoid hurting her" storyline, playing the laughs while managing to never actually go into black comedy. It's well-written, with some beautiful dialogue, a storyline that is genuinely suspenseful and, while plot developments are never really surprising, every time I thought I knew what would happen next I was wrong. Add to that the great design (the 1940s period is a visually rich period), and the film just comes alive.

(My only real problem with the film initially was with the casting of Rachel McAdams, an actress who I like and who absolutely looks perfect for the 1940s, and who does play the role extremely well, but who frankly seems a little too young for the role of a woman who married ten years and who was widowed by the war. Imagine my shock when I check the IMDb and discover McAdams was born in 1976. She's older than me! Which means she's pretty much the right age for the role. That's the problem with Hollywood getting people in their mid-20s to play high school students in films like Mean Girls - when you try to get them to actually play their age, they just seem too young.)

Anyway, I'd never heard of Ira Sachs before, but based on the strength of this film, I'm interesting in seeking out his earlier films. In the meantime, it seems the film is coming out next month. It's a wonderfully-crafted film, and well worth your time and money.

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