Did You Hear About the Morgans? would be a better movie without the contrivance of a murder. Paul and Meryl, the eponymous couple, are on their way home when they see a man tossed off his balcony. They momentarily lock eyes with the killer, and unless they agree to join the Witness Protection Program, it’s lights out.
It seems like an easy choice when one’s life is at stake, but Meryl (Sarah Jessica Parker) is a high maintenance New Yorker who holds fast to that concrete jungle where dreams are made of, where there’s nothing she can’t do, where those streets make her feel brand new. She balks at the idea of leaving her boutique real estate business and New York bagels while Paul (Hugh Grant), a lawyer, is a little more open to the idea of relocating, at least when it comes to avoiding premature death.
The pair ends up in Wyoming, and a classic fish out of water story. What follows is a revolving door of every joke and cliché imaginable about city slickers roughing it in the country. There are rodeos, guns, and breakfasts with enough bacon to induce a heart attack. Some of the jokes poke fun at the Morgans’ uneasy relationship with nature, which is odd since they probably restrict their diet to organic foods and free-range eggs. Meryl, for example, gasps for breath during a jog because the air’s too pure, and Paul finds himself face-to-face with a bear.
But a large portion of the humor depends on painting the citizens of Wyoming as redneck simpletons. The town doctor treats Paul like he’s a pediatric patient, and his nurse, who moonlights as a waitress and assistant fire chief, can’t seem to count past five. You don’t have to be from a rural area, though I am, to roll your eyes at the contempt the filmmakers have for residents of flyover territory. The only ones that have an air of erudition and sense of a world beyond honky-tonk and cowboy hats are Clay and Emma Wheeler (Sam Elliott and Mary Steenburgen), the seasoned sheriff and deputy who are used to taking in jittery witnesses from the big cities. The Morgans stay over on the pretense that Meryl is Clay’s cousin.
There’s no reason why this isn’t the actual motivation for their visit. It would cut out the superfluous cat-and-mouse game and leave more room for the couple to mend their broken relationship. Paul has been trying to win back his wife after cheating on her, but she hasn’t been as forgiving. Their pairing with the Clays is the best couples therapy they’ll ever get. It’s these scenes that Parker is the most earnest in her portrayal. She’s a lot more pleasant to watch as a woman who doesn’t know how to trust the man who truly hurt her than as a woman harping about the lack of Chinese takeout. It’s a bit harder for Grant to find his footing, though he’s all but patented the contrite, bumbling Englishman act. He shares at least one heartfelt scene with Steenburgen, and it would be nice to see more interactions between the two couples that didn’t solely involve horses and hunting.
Prod: Martin Shafer, Liz Glotzer
Dir: Marc Lawrence
Writer: Marc Lawrence
Cast: Sarah Jessica Parker, Hugh Grant, Sam Elliott, Mary Steenburgen, Elisabeth Moss, Jessie Liebman, Michael Kelly, Kim Shaw, Wilford Brimley, Gracie Bea Lawrence, David Call, Seth Gilliam
Time: 103 min
Country: United States