"Couples Retreat" Peddles a Bizarre Vision of Fear-Induced Monogamy

What Women Really Think
Oct. 12 2009 9:53 AM

"Couples Retreat" Peddles a Bizarre Vision of Fear-Induced Monogamy

I disregarded the bad reviews and saw Couples Retreat this weekend, mostly because I have a sort of inexplicable faith in the comedy prowess of Vince Vaughn. As expected, it didn’t offer much beyond the Hollywood-happy obvious for the coupled characters who take to a relationship-building resort for a week of joint therapy, yoga, and quasi-illogical trust-building activities (you’ve seen the stripping-down scene on the beach in the preview, right? ) to work on their endangered marriages. In fact, the only thing that did prove surprising about Couples Retreat was the terribly boring, compulsory brand of monogamy the movie offered up at the end.

Throughout the movie there are a bunch of bizarrely conservative mini-dilemmas that seemed more apt for an episode of Degrassi -in the sauna the men discuss whether thinking of other women during sex is cheating (the answer: a tentative yes) and later, the women scold Kristin Davis for flirting with the yoga instructor despite the fact her husband openly salivates over a young single dancer in front of his wife and their friends (double standard much?)-but the real kicker is the end, when a newly self-realized Kristin Bell storms off angrily and the other women follow her to the throbbing dance beats and seizure-inducing lights of the singles' island. See, there are two islands at the resort-the couples' island (Eden West) and the raging, 24-hour-party-sluts island (Eden East). And it’s only by visiting the other side, full of bikini- and Speedo-clad hedonists, that the married folk can come to appreciate their not-so-great unions.

Related question: Do you want to avoid eating at Applebee’s alone? Seriously. (And also, spoiler alert!) This is what Jon Favreau asks himself when the men reach the party island and he sees his wife dancing it up with a Fabioesque twentysomething. Keep in mind the two haven’t said a word to each other the entire vacation and are ready to divorce as soon as their daughter goes off to college, but one desperately frightening idea changes all of that: eating at a chain restaurant alone. Favreau confronts her, they fight, confess to cheating on each other, confess to hating each another, and then he says: "I don’t want to eat at Applebee’s alone." Davis replies: "I don’t either." Thus their marriage is saved. They’re not, how do you say ...  happy, exactly, but God, isn’t better to be an unhappily married person than one of these desperate dancing people out searching for the first offer that comes their way? And that's the slightly depressing conclusion of Couples Retreat : Take what you have. Being alone is worse.

TODAY IN SLATE

Sports Nut

Grandmaster Clash

One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

Do the Celebrities Whose Nude Photos Were Stolen Have a Case Against Apple?

The NFL Explains How It Sees “the Role of the Female”

Future Tense

Amazon Is Now a Gadget Company

Food

How to Order Chinese Food

First, stop thinking of it as “Chinese food.”

Scotland Is Inspiring Secessionists Across America

The Country Where Women Aren’t Allowed to Work Once They’re 36 Weeks’ Pregnant

The XX Factor
Sept. 18 2014 11:40 AM The Country Where Women Aren’t Allowed to Work Once They’re 36 Weeks’ Pregnant
Moneybox
Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
The World
Sept. 18 2014 1:34 PM Americans Fault Obama for Giving Them Exactly the Anti-ISIS Strategy They Want
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
  Life
Doonan
Sept. 18 2014 2:00 PM On the Death of My Homophobic Dog I named him Liberace, but I couldn’t have chosen a less appropriate namesake for this coarse, emotionally withholding Norwich terrier.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 18 2014 12:03 PM The NFL Opines on “the Role of the Female”
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 18 2014 1:23 PM “It’s Not Everyday That You Can Beat the World Champion” An exclusive interview with chess grandmaster Fabiano Caruana.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 18 2014 2:03 PM Ryan Adams’ New Song Is a Reminder That He’s One of His Generation’s Best Songwriters
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 1:24 PM Can the Celebrities Whose Photos Were Stolen Really Sue Apple? It may be harder to prove “harm” than it seems.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 18 2014 7:30 AM Red and Green Ghosts Haunt the Stormy Night
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.