If you’re from NYC and someone out West asks if you hunt, you probably smile awkwardly and say, “Only for bargains.”
That’s what Meryl Morgan claims.
Meryl, a card-carrying PETA member—is the No. 1 boutique real estate agent in New York City. Her husband, Paul, is a successful attorney. But the big city life may be taking its toll. After he cheats on her, they separate.
Paul’s sorry and wants to reconcile. But Meryl doesn’t trust him anymore.
Always one to grovel—repeatedly—Paul convinces Meryl to have dinner with him. To talk. At the end of an I’m-so-sorry-please-don’t-divorce-me meal, he and his relationally reluctant wife take a walk—and happen to witness the murder of one of her clients. Now they’ll be star witnesses in the case.
The killer got a good look at them, so the Feds relocate the couple. To Wyoming. To Ray, Wyoming. To a place where they don’t even have a Bargain Basement warehouse store (like they do in Cody), much less a boutique real estate office. Neither Morgan is thrilled about this. Meryl says she’s tried bagels in other parts of the country, and she doesn’t even like Connecticut’s. Ray probably doesn’t even have bagels.
Local lawman Clay Wheeler and his wife, Emma, take Paul and Meryl in for a few days. And the rest of the townsfolk generously embrace Paul and Meryl. And though the city slickers seem to feel a tad superior at times (theirs is not a world of guns, meat-laden refrigerators, cowboy hats, conservative politics and breakfasts that require an angioplasty chaser), they grow to appreciate “country folk” and the charms of rural living.
They also slow down their frenetic East Coast pace and, thanks to the absence of smartphones, the Internet and cable TV, gradually relight their marital spark. After all, you can’t have a relationship without time and intentional communication.
Forgiveness between spouses is a huge theme in The Morgans. Meryl, too, has committed adultery, and must admit it to Paul. Just as she has struggled, he struggles to accept her apology and come to terms with her unfaithfulness, and the two eventually experience the resuscitating beauty of reconciliation. Once as they are bickering, a frustrated Clay says to them, “Marriage doesn’t make sense! Stop thinking about [your failures]! Make it work!” Emma comments that Paul and Meryl can still laugh together—an important sign that they still have a relationship to work with.
Rather than continue to expect everything from Paul, idealistic Meryl comes to understand that no one can fulfill her every need or dream perfectly—though Paul says he still loves her enough to try. Gradually, the two come to realize that their marital crisis can make or break them, and they choose to turn it into part of the brick in their new foundation.
Americans are said to be “God fearing.” But Meryl says she’s agnostic. And Paul thanks the God that she’s not sure of for fooling her into to marry him. Indeed, Paul has a habit of flippantly thanking God or saying, “Lord in heaven” when he’s in pain or perplexed.
Paul and Meryl talk about having to have sex while she ovulated, and he jokes about foreplay. There’s a joke about sperm. It’s implied they have sex when he carries her into his bedroom, and they snuggle (when they’re speaking to each other) in bed. Several women wear tops that reveal cleavage. Couples kiss.
A murdered man falls from an apartment balcony onto the sidewalk below. (He lands offscreen.) A bodyguard is shot twice in the chest, and multiple other shots are fired, sometimes through windows that explode into shards. Paul and Meryl flee such gunfire several times.
A bull charges, but doesn’t badly injure, Paul and Meryl. A bear chases Paul. (Trying to spray the bear with repellant, Meryl manages to get more in Paul’s eyes than on the bear.) Twice, a woman tasers a man, who falls to the ground in agony.
At least three s-words. God’s name is misused about 30 times, and Christ’s twice. Paul uses the British expletive “b-llocks.”
A café owner smokes in his establishment and refuses to quit when Meryl (who is appalled) asks him to. Alcohol is served with a meal or two.
Stereotypes loom large in this romcom. When she first meets Emma—who has just purchased a new rifle and is wearing a cowboy hat—Meryl quips that it must be Sarah Palin. A bumpkin doctor and his nitwit nurse might be nice people, but they’re never shown to be professionals. Republicans are said to be grudge-holders who keep track of every single Democrat in town. (There are only 13 such residents in Ray.)
Similarly, Meryl and Paul play their big city superiority to the hilt.
Paul and Meryl take verbal swipes at each other when they don’t see things eye to eye.
This is for my East Coast friends who, like Paul and Meryl, do not seem to understand most west-of-the-Mississippi lifestyles: We do not all sport guns, eat opossum or wrastle bears in our backyards. (Well, bears do show up from time to time, but we don’t try to befriend them.) We also have running water.
Now that that’s cleared up, I’ll say that Did You Hear About the Morgans? goes for grins more than it goes for cultural jugulars. It’s an easygoing, formulaic film that indulges a bit of unnecessary language and a few poorly chosen jokes, but remains a comparatively decent romp through small-town USA—and the dynamics of marriage.
Variety critic John Anderson calls it “a fish-out-of-water story with a bit of a freshness issue.” He’s just about hit the trout on the head. To take the food analogy a step further, though, sometimes processed cheese in a can tastes better and is easier to digest than other movies’ Limburger-inspired obscenities, gore and sensuality.
It is refreshing that Meryl and Paul finally “get it” and reconcile their relationship. You want them to get back together from the very beginning. And they do—learning quite a lot about how to stay together along the way. As a friend once told me, “Marriage isn’t about each person giving 50%. It’s about both people giving 100% to love each other.”
That makes sense to me. Apparently it does to the Morgans, too, because they demonstrate that working hard to work it out can turn any old place you might be forced to stay into the Ritz.