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“Married Life”

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03072008_marriedlife.jpgBy Matt Singer

By the end of “Married Life,” the characters have caused each other a great deal of harm in order to better their own lives, and they know it. Is it wrong, they wonder, to build one’s happiness on the unhappiness of others? If it is, that makes going to the movies one of the most immoral acts you can do. What are movies, after all, if not the vicarious enjoyment of the suffering of others?

There’s plenty of suffering here, and thus plenty to enjoy. The film focuses on four people living at the turn of the 1950s and the damage they do to one another. Harry (Chris Cooper) is married to Pat (Patricia Clarkson), but their relationship chilled some time ago. Harry confides to his best friend Richard (Pierce Brosnan) that he wants something more out of a woman than just “the sex” by way of introducing him to his mistress, Kay (Rachel McAdams). While Richard — who initially considers marriage as “a mild illness” — falls for Kay, an oblivious Harry plots ways to remove an equally oblivious Pat from the picture.

The film is set specifically at the end of 1949. In American cinema terms, that sort of places it at the tail end of film noir, but just prior to the major melodramas of Douglas Sirk. It’s funny how we tend to think of these particular styles as so wholly different even though these films were often standing shoulder to shoulder at the box office (“The Big Heat” predated “Magnificent Obsession” by about ten months and it, in turn, predated “Kiss Me Deadly” by about ten months). In a sense, “Married Life” marries the two forms together in a way that honors, and also upends, the traditions of both. If you’re looking for one filmmaking mode or the other, you might be disappointed that the film isn’t as dark as the former or as serious as the latter. But if you’re willing to go along with a movie that plays with convention and ducks expectations, it all works.

Well, maybe not all. Some of the angles of this love rectangle are just a wee bit off. McAdams, in particular, doesn’t seem the right match — age-wise, temperament-wise, “the sex”-wise or otherwise — for Cooper. Her character would seem to fit the bill of a femme fatale but, as we’ve established, “Married Life” isn’t necessarily a film noir and so Kay isn’t necessarily required to play into any stereotypes. But she doesn’t play into much of anything else either; her performance is as flat as that unflattering platinum blonde hairdo she sports. She fares better in her scenes with Brosnan, but that may be thanks to the fact that he seems to be as authentic to the era as she is clearly not. Brosnan got a lot of credit for “updating” Bond back in the ’90s, but it’s obvious in the way he wears his suits, smokes his cigarettes, and carries his hat that he’s very comfortable in a period piece. He just looks like someone from a movie from 1949 and he’s got just the right sort of ladies’ man persona for a character as lovesick as Richard.

I like the way the film builds to one climax but delivers another even more satisfying one, and I like the way the director, Ira Sachs (previously of the 2005 Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner, “Forty Shades of Blue”), piles on layer after layer of guilt, deceit, and paranoia and still has the guts to go for a happy ending. The characters suffer for our pleasure, and, ultimately, their own.

[Patricia Clarkson in “Married Life,” Sony Pictures Classics, 2007]

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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