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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Couples Retreat

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

Though much of its action is set at an idyllic island getaway in the South Pacific, the mostly dull, sexually wayward marital comedy "Couples Retreat" (Universal/Relativity) is hardly a visit to paradise.

Before reaching the safe shore of its morally acceptable, fidelity-affirming wrap-up, viewers have to endure waves of constantly suggestive, occasionally smutty humor and a tide of New Age psychobabble.

Presiding over the resort—where the usual recreational activities are interspersed with sessions of hippy-dippy marriage therapy—is French-born free spirit Marcel (Jean Reno). Impressed by Marcel's reputation as a renowned "couples whisperer," suburbanites Jason (Jason Bateman) and Cynthia (Kristen Bell), whose bond has been strained by their infertility and by the round of treatments they've been pursuing to remedy it, are certain that he alone can salvage their union.

But the pair can only afford Marcel's luxurious retreat at a group rate, so they cajole a few of their friends to join them on the journey with the promise—false as it turns out— that the others can skip the relationship repair work and spend all their time chasing fun in the sun.

Since Dave (Vince Vaughn) and Ronnie (Malin Akerman) believe themselves to have a perfectly happy marriage, and since Joey (Jon Favreau) and Lucy (Kristin Davis) want to conceal the fact that they're about to split, they're chagrined to be told, shortly after arrival, that everyone must participate in analysis or they will all—Jason and Cynthia included—be sent packing.

As for Shane (Faizon Love), he's equally put out, since he's already separated from his wife and has his recently acquired, much younger girlfriend Trudy (Kali Hawk) in tow.

Predictably, first-time director Peter Billingsley's debut sees its ensemble of characters rediscovering their love for each other or learning to work harder at being good spouses. But Marcel's method, which rests on concepts like connecting with your inner animal spirit, and features sessions of yoga and massage played for blue humor, is obviously not a credible substitute for faith as a basis for lifelong commitment.


The film contains strong sexual content, including brief but aberrant adulterous activity, fleeting nongraphic sexual activity within marriage, a flash of rear nudity, many sexually themed jokes, and some crude and much crass language. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

***
Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.


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Monica: The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism. 
<p>Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine (August 28) , is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (all flesh is evil)  and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted. </p><p>When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan. </p><p>In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below). Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste. </p><p>She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death. </p><p>Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his <i>Confessions</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog Heavenly Father, I am sure there are frequently tiny miracles where you protect us and are present to us although you always remain anonymous. Help me appreciate how carefully you watch over me and my loved ones all day long, and be sensitive enough to stay close to you. I ask this in Jesus's name. Amen.

 
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