Married Life

Rated 4.0

In the late 1940s, a masterfully subtle, simpering Chris Cooper decides to poison his catlike Patricia Clarkson wife to spare her the humiliating divorce obliged by his affair with young blond war widow Rachel McAdams. Pierce Brosnan is Cooper’s friend and eventual rival for the blonde’s favor, and also the movie’s narrator—elected as such, perhaps, because his character seems to possess the most complete understanding of what this story really is: a compassionate and extremely straight-faced farce. Director Ira Sachs, co-scripting with Oren Moverman, takes lessons from Hitchcockian suspense and Sirkian melodrama, each duly famous for its erotic charge, to render a picture of intelligence, maturity and style, if not an entirely satisfying one. There’s something odd about Married Life, but that’s an asset—to be cultivated, not dismissed; once he gets out from under his influences and trusts his own gut, Sachs might become a major director.