Reviewed by: Denny Wayman and Hal Conklin
Reprinted with permission from CinemaInFocus.com
Love Life for Every Married Couple (book)
Starring: Ashton Kutcher, Brittany Murphy, Christian Kane, Taran Killam, Monet Mazur | Directed by: Shawn Levy | Produced by: Robert Simonds, Tracey Trench, Lauren Shuler Donner | Written by: Sam Harper | Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox
Most adults will probably look at this film as a youth-oriented comedy. The tragedy is that our youth-oriented culture may look at this movie as a training film of how to actually connect with one another in healthy romantic love.
Here are two mismatched twenty-somethings who meet in a bar, move in with one another a month later, come from two completely different backgrounds, get married, and then wonder why they are in trouble. They struggle with the questions: Is this a problem to be solved? Or, is it a clash of values to be understood?
In some respects, the story of Sarah and Tom (Brittany Murphy and Ashton Kutcher) does have some honest lessons to be taught. Watching the true-to-life struggle of two people who have been reared as strong individuals and having to learn what it means to “become one” is painfully real. Sarah comes from a wealthy Los Angeles sports-team-owner background, where all of life and happiness is purchased. Her parents, family, and ex-boyfriends will do anything to sabotage the marriage, even dishonoring the marriage by disrupting their honeymoon.
Tom comes from a middle-class background that finds its greatest comfort in frat-boy humor and sports bars. His friends don’t find comfort in his marriage succeeding either, since it would be such a contrast to their own shallow lives.
Following their wedding, Sarah and Tom embark on a European honeymoon that is filled with comical pratfalls and painful incidents. For anyone who has been married, there are many scenes here that sometimes hit too close to home.
Although the film takes us to a “live happily ever after” conclusion, it is the struggle along the way that provides the teachable moments. Each time Sarah and Tom reach the most painful point of struggle, they, like many people, believe that they may have made the wrong choice in marriage partners. Each of them thinks that maybe they should have waited for more time before getting married in order for them to be “more mature.”
What they fail to understand is that “maturity” doesn’t come about by the passage of time, but rather through successfully working through our pain and struggles. It would take decades of reading books or talking to buddies in sports bars to gain any deep insights. In this instance, they will only succeed in becoming “mature” by staying in their marriage and forging a new kind of alliance—one that is not based on egocentric self-interest.
This is the same advice that Sarah gets from her mother and Tom gets from his father. Each has had to compromise to make their marriage work, and it is their valuable advice that wins out in the end.
So, with this end in mind, “Just Married” might have something to teach our youth-oriented film audiences after all. Its primary weakness lies in the fact that neither Sarah nor Tom (nor their parents) exhibits any credible spiritual depth. Without some form of deep roots, even a strong tree can eventually blow over in the wind.
Rated on CinemaInFocus.com as “2 stars—Provocative.”