Saturday, 28 November 2020

Movie Review: Did You Hear About The Morgans? (2009)

A romantic comedy with boots on, Did You Hear About The Morgans? enjoys two stars in fine form, an out-of-the-way setting, and a sparkling script.

In New York City, successful realtor Meryl Morgan (Sarah Jessica Parker) is separated from her husband and lawyer Paul (Hugh Grant). Their marriage crumbled under the stress of arguments about adoption, and he subsequently cheated. But now he is contrite and desperately wants to win her back. They go on a date which ends with them witnessing a gangland murder and being placed in a witness protection program.

Relocated to the tiny community of Ray, Wyoming, Meryl and Paul are sheltered by gruff Marshal Clay Wheeler (Sam Elliot) and his wife and Deputy Marshal Emma (Mary Steenburgen). The Morgans have to get used to the rural small town lifestyle and learn to live together again, while the assassin from New York attempts to track them down.

Rom-coms tend to thrive in New York, and while Did You Hear About The Morgans? starts in the Big Apple, the story soon packs its bags and heads way west. Writer and director Marc Lawrence recognizes the humour inherent in ejecting perennial urbanites Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant out of their comfort zone, and he plonks them down in fictional Ray, Wyoming. Actually, the outskirts of Ray, Wyoming, because Clay and Emma Wheeler prefer to live a bit away from the hustle and bustle of the one-block town.

And the friendly friction between transplanted city folks and the rural lifestyle is fertile soil to freshen the produce on this genre shelf. Cows, horses, one bear, rifles and pick-up trucks of course all contribute. And in addition to the Wheelers, Lawrence populates the town with colourful characters including the larger-than-life Earl Granger (the ever watchable Wilford Brimley), an all-purpose doctor and an equally adaptable nurse/assistant fire chief.

Meanwhile Meryl and Paul are busy getting reacquainted and resetting their troubled marriage. The attempted relationship revival and associated tip-toeing through dark corners of their past lead to more-honest-than-usual conversations. The third leg of the narrative stool is the murderer tracking down the couple, and while a crime investigation instigates the cross-country displacement, it is also the least developed element. A sub-sub-sub plot is played for breezy laughs and features Paul and Meryl's stressed-out assistants (Elisabeth Moss and Paul Kelly) falling in love (involving tasers) back in New York.

Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant avoid any stretching and import their prepackaged screen personas with minimal modifications. She is pleasantly neurotic and cannot imagine the concept of a life outside of Manhattan, and he is self-effacing and lightning quick with a side quip. Sam Elliott and Mary Steenburgen are exceptionally good as gracious hosts who get to marvel at the foreign critters acting as houseguests.

Breaking new ground more literally than figuratively, the Morgans are worth hearing about. 



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