THREE STARS – Searching, Thoughtful

Affairs don’t just happen.  They are most often the final destination of a meandering and inattentive journey. Taking one another for granted, living behind facades, neither acknowledging or discussing the emptiness, a couple’s passion fades from the marriage.

In those moments, the ever-present temptation of an affair seems like a solution.  But once the fuse is lit, the bomb which explodes from the adultery is pervasive and devastating.  This truth is explored by author Callie Khouri in the film “SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT.”  Billed as a comedy, and though there are some very funny lines, the pain of the people in the film is anything but funny.

The central characters are a woman and man whose lives have become disruptingly empty.  Having slowly lost the laughter and passion of their marriage, Grace (Julia Roberts) and Eddie (Dennis Quaid) live separate and hollow lives.

In the opening scenes we observe their daily routine being void of any meaningful contact or conversation.  As we watch their cars race off in different directions, we are prepared to see Eddie’s unfaithfulness and to hear his lies in the moments to come.

But affairs don’t just happen.

This truth is stated clearly by Grace’s sister played by Kyra Sedgwick.  When Grace asks the rhetorical question, “Why did this happen to me?”  her sister responds, “Nothing just happened to you.  You didn’t get hit by a truck!”  She also says, “What do you expect when you marry a person whose nickname in college is ‘hound-dog?’”

This truth that we end up being where our choices have taken us, is a truth that life unrelentingly teaches.  But what do we do when we end up in a place we did not want?  How do we pour our passion and trust back into a frayed or empty marriage?

Where does one turn for help?

Although one would expect that in the heart of the South with it’s Christian “Bible-Belt” culture there would be at least some religious input, there is none in Grace and Eddie’s lives.  Instead they are left to the advice of an eccentric aunt.  Her advice to Grace is to hit Eddie where it hurts and poison him.

Though this counsel is funny and provides only one of many acts of revenge by the women on the men of the film, it is, of course, counter-productive.  What is needed is a complete discussion of the path that brought them to such a painful destination.  Without the help of pastor or counselor, Grace and Eddie stumble back along the path of their journey looking for understanding. They realize that they had never really become their own persons.

Both working for their fathers Eddie says, “We both turned into what we swore we would never become.”  Grace had wanted to become a veterinarian. But instead she is doing the dirty-work of her self-centered and prideful father (Robert Duvall).  Eddie had felt inferior to Grace.  Never thinking she would say “yes,” to his proposal for marriage, his  insecurity had invaded their sexual pleasure.  Grace had watched her father cheat on her mother (Gena Rowlands) and had lost respect not only for her parents, but for the sanctity of marriage itself.

It was in the facing of these and other insights that Grace and Eddie could begin to reconstruct their lives together.  Standing up to her father, Grace quit being his henchman and went back to school.  Dating Eddie, Grace and he began to laugh and dance and share themselves once more.

Though the movie ends in the same house where it began, the intimacy of Grace and Eddie is changed and changing.  Exploring and growing, their marriage is becoming a place of healing as they choose to give themselves again to each other.