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Married to It

Rated R, 112 min. Directed by Arthur Hiller. Starring Beau Bridges, Stockard Channing, Robert Sean Leonard, Mary Stuart Masterson, Cybill Shepherd, Ron Silver.

REVIEWED By Louis Black, Fri., April 2, 1993

The failures of this awkward melodrama are so obvious -- you stop little short of hissing at the villains -- and so abundant that prudence would indicate a slam-dunk review. Wham, bam, no thank you, anyone. What surprises are its successes. The story is of three couples thrown together through the social activities of a private school -- two Sixties survivors (Bridges and Channing) with two sons at the school; a divorced toy manufacturer (Silver) with a daughter in the school and now married to a high-powered executive (Shepherd), who doesn't really think of herself as a stepmother but a second wife; and the school's a new counselor (Masterson) and her Michael Milken milquetoast husband (Leonard). What stinks about the plot is its awesome predictability, the literally obnoxious dramatic structure in which we all, as an audience, know everything well before it happens. But the group dynamic is something more than the movie itself. The six meet, they sit across from each other, none a particularly attractive person. It's the first dinner party and they are frozen in the spacelessness of no-conversation, a party situation in which we have all been. Gradually they begin to become friends. This story is extraordinary. The truth is that friends can comprise the least likely groups of individuals imaginable, and Big Chill Hollywood usually offers only the most arranged and logical groupings. There are moments of this film, deprived of narrative, divorced from character, independent of the script, through sheer force of the cast, that actually become about something of profound importance, the way people are together. Invariably, Married To It overwhelms these moments with its sheer TV narrativity (first act: introduction, second act: conflict, third act: resolution). It doesn't really make sense and a lot of it just sucks. So wait until it's on video -- married people especially here -- get a bottle of wine and watch, when the kids are asleep. Don't expect much, it's hard going at first. But, there's a sweetness here that, when it pops up, is worth cherishing, most often with Bridges and Channing who act as a couple that actually like each other and have really been together twenty years, but in all the couples really. (Though poor brilliant Shepherd just can't act and Silver has no earthly idea when to stop.) All of them offer not much of a movie but moments to relish -- moments of adults quietly and mundanely in love, too rarely found.
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