Monday, April 11, 2011

T'ill Death Do Us Fart?

I have great hopes that we shall love each other
all our lives, as much as if we had never married at all.
-- Lord Byron

I was thinking about marriage this weekend and what that word means to different people. My cousin was visiting from out of town. It was interesting because she and her husband haven't spent much time apart and I could see that she was really missing him. Unfortunately, I've spent a lot of time away from mine, who had to take a job up north years ago when times were tough. He's been back for longer than he was gone but does that make it easier when we part today? Nope. Harder in fact. Instead of relishing a bit of alone time like I used to, I now find myself (as Liev mused a few Christmases ago) sulking in the bathtub. (Although I do not own a gun.)

Is it a fairy tale? A contract? A sitcom? A sentence? Marriage means different things to different people. How did it all start for you? What was your home-life like growing up? How long have you been married? That's a biggie. There's a massive difference between being a newlywed and, well, a non-newlywed. There are perils to letting the bloom off the rose. At the same time there's a profound level of intimacy that comes with living in such close proximity to someone. You can miss his smell even though it's just that - a smell. This is the stuff of marriage.

Surely one of the benefits of being an actor must be the opportunity to try all these phases and stages and metamorphoses on for size? Liev really has had the chance to plunk himself in the middle of many different kinds of marriages. He always hits the ground running.

I would say that while they are geographically very close, you could not get two more different husbands than Eddie Carbone (A View from the Bridge) and Marty Kantrowitz (A Walk on the Moon). While Liev's Eddie has given up on seeing any magic in his own union, Marty's clinging to his with all his might. While Eddie is set in his ways and is not aware of self and situation, Liev's Marty is fully cognizant of where he's at and how he feels about it. Liev's range with these two characters is remarkable when you think about how, in the scope of the whole wide world, these two men are in totally different brainspaces.

In fact the only criticism I could find online about either of these characters were people who thought Liev portrayed Marty as too likeable. They felt Liev's exceedingly appealing Marty rendered the story a little unrealistic: who would cheat on such a wonderful husband? Of course anyone who's been close to infidelity knows it often has less to do with the cheated. It's usually the cheater who has a problem festering from within.

I, on the other hand, think this made the story that much more believable. Liev's affable Marty made Pearl's internal conflict more weighted and real. If Marty had been a total crud we would have all become The Blouse Man Cheering Section ~ a very different kind of happy ending than what we got. I would like to have seen a little more reflection from Pearl - she jumped pretty damn quickly. But when I pointed this out to my Dad he reminded me that I was only a zygote at the time. He said I cannot imagine what the 60's really felt like, especially for those who were teetering on the rim of it all trying to decide whether or not to plunge.

Liev's Eddie Carbone is also a very different animal from Every Day's Ned. I could oversimplify by stating that Miller made Eddie a true man of the times. While Catherine has become Eddie's only joy in life, we need to remember that these were the days when joy was completely hedonistic pursuit and not something a 38 year old dockworker would have been encouraged to grab for openly, bloodlines aside.

We get the sense that Robin, on the other hand, was an interchangeable catalyst for Liev's Ned. What did Ned learn from her? She was skilled enough to distract him, capitalize on his need for attention and ride that bus. Only when she oversteps her bounds and makes assumptions about his life does Ned manage a very realistic knee jerk and set her straight: "I never said it was a bad marriage."

We could argue that Eddie's facing a mid-life crisis and Catherine was also an interchangeable engenue, but I think that dilutes Eddie's level of obsession and who wants that? Eddie's a go big or go home kind of guy.

Watching Liev's Marty open himself up to new possibilities (even something as simple as switching the radio dial from Como to Hendrix) was a gorgeous bourgeoning that I think happens all the time, if we could just allow ourselves to see our partners as they are before us today.

Watching my cousin speak of and react to her absent husband reminded me of how significant all this is. I'm not usually one to take things for granted but is "not too bad" enough of a qualifier? I think I may have to kick things up a notch around here.

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