Mr. and Mrs. Smith: An Allegory of Modern Day Marriage

Published: 19th August 2005
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"Mr. and Mrs. Smith: An Allegory of Modern Day Marriage,"

by Susan Dunn, MA, The EQ Coach

Mr. and Mrs. Smith . who ARE these people? to paraphrase one

of the great lines from this movie starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

According to one reviewer, "John and Jane Smith are a

happily married couple who work as assassins for rival

firms." James Berardinelli considers it two movies in one,

"a sly comedy/thriller worthy of Hitchcock [and] a big noisy summer action flick."

It's two movies all right, but I'd merge the action-thriller-comedy together, and suggest it's also one of the best allegories for marriage I've ever seen.

Who ARE those people? They're Every Married Couple . after

the honeymoon's over. No, they're not "happily" married -

the movie begins in their marriage therapist's office - but married they are, and the more you've been married, the more you'll laugh your head off, so you don't bang it against a wall at the impossible sly comedy/thriller, noisy action imbroglio a marriage can be.

Some may take this movie at face value. Others will see the wolf's head peering out from under Granny's nightie - the aggression that's part of marriage, and part of life.

In the shrink's office, John speaks for both of them, saying they've been married 5 years. Jane corrects that it's "6".

The script is peppered with the sort of bickering and snipes you hear from those disgruntled married couples you unfortunately find yourself seated with on cruises.

When Jane 'accidentally' sticks a knife in John's leg, he snaps, "We'll talk about this later."

When she mouths off in front of their hostage, John growls,

"It would be better not to demean me in front of the


They are assassins, who discover they're going to have to

kill each other in order to survive. Imagine that feeling between a married couple. As Eddie, a marvelous support character, tells John, "This broad is not your wife. She's the enemy."

"She tried to kill me," John admits.

"They all try to kill you," replies Eddie. "Slowly,

painfully, cripplingly. How're you going to handle it?"

Having reached the slow, painful, crippling stage, the

Smiths are living separate lives under the same roof.

Locked in a power-struggle they'd have to lose in order to

win, when they dance, it's the tango, and when they talk,

they shoot verbal bullets.

Literally doing the tango, John slams her against a wall,

and Jane fires off, "Satisfied?" "Not for years," he

replies, then hurls the knife he'd like to hurl into her,

into the wall. (See trailer here:


Trapped somewhere, Jane instructs him to turn left and even when his life depends on it, he won't be told what to do. Shortly thereafter they botch something, apologize simultaneously, and infuriate themselves further. Neither can win and neither will quit. "It's my fault." No, it's MY fault."

As they act out for us the conflict of "can't live with him/her, can't live without him/her" conflict, they discover they must join forces to survive. Then they level with each other and get honest. It isn't the bad meals she isn't cooking that's killing the marriage, it's the lies and half-lies. And aren't they always shocking? But you can't kill what's already dead. Paradoxically, it revives it.

Jane admits the man who gave her away at their wedding

wasn't her father, but a paid actor. John admits to having been married before. Immediately Jane, the professional assassin, demands the woman's name and social security number, and John replies, "No, you're not going to kill her."

Allegorically, they work through their relationship problems the way we all must - dodging bullets and crawling around in a speeding car, while "Making Love Out of Nothing at All" plays in the background. How many "discussions" have you and your partner had while dodging bullets from in-laws, cleaning toilets, trying to make a deadline, and fighting traffic, while chasing kids and dogs around the house?

This movie's deliciously cathartic, allowing us to

recognize, purge and perhaps purify feelings we're aware of, just barely aware of, or in total denial of. We see acted out the raw emotions that come with intense relationships - the good, the bad, and the very, very ugly. As Harriet Lerner says in "The Dance of Connection," "relentless focusing on an issue that only gets worse feels less like a real sharing of feelings and more like a primitive flow of anxiety going from one person to the other."

"We need to talk," says John, after she's tried to run him

over with the car.

It satisfies the gremlin within us to see John beat her up, then kick her a few times for good measure. And then, once they've fallen to the floor exhausted, equallty-matched as they are, Janes reaches over for one more punch to his unsuspecting face. Most of us are too controlled to even consider this. However, we find other ways, and the question is, what do you do when the love affair of the century has turned into a negotiated cease-fire?

Having reached the impasse, Mr. and Mrs. Smith feel it would

be easier to go their separate ways. Then, because it's a fairytale, of the Grimm sort, danger comes their way and forces the issue. They find they need each other in order to stay alive. In the process, they get real with one another; that is, they start feeling again. We are our emotions, and you can't stuff one down without stuffing them all down.

The marvelously superficial and one-dimensional characters

they meet on their journey are a foil for this authenticity. One of the best scenes has John running for his life around the exterior of the house, and his dog-walking, clueless, neighbor tells him his car is blocking the sidewalk. Haven't you taken a phone call from your hysterical wife with your boss mouthing "Where's the hole punch?" in your face?

It's a story of boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love.

Boy and girl fall out of love and want to kill each other.

In this case, literally.

And in true allegorical fashion, we aren't wasting our time with things that don't work because they can't work (like a wife 20 years younger), or symptoms (like infidelity or money). It's raw material. Archetypal stuff, the stuff of myths.

This couple suffers from the same thing that troubled

Orpheus and Eurydice in the ancient Greek myth. Eurydice disappeared from the relationship just after their wedding ceremony, and went to the Underworld (symbolic of the Unconscious). When Orpheus went after her, he was given simple, specific instructions for how to bring her back safely, which, being human, or being Orpheus, or being both, he refused to do.

Be prepared for a little myth, a little allegory, as our

hero and heroine shed some light on human nature, and those

two odd bedfellows, love and aggression, that are part of

our relationships, and part of life.

©Susan Dunn, MA, EQ and Relationship Coach, . Coaching, Internet courses and ebooks around emotional intelligence for your personal and professional success. Recognizing and managing the emotions is what it's all about. Susan trains and certifies EQ coaches internationally. Email her for information on this fast, affordable, comprehensive, no-residency program. For FREE ezine, .

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