Film School: What to do if your boring spouse turns out to be a spy

You may encounter situations in your life for which there is no possible preparation. Luckily, movies are a great substitute for real-life experience. In Film School, we look at what television and movies can teach us about these unexpected scenarios.

If there’s one thing that Hollywood comedies and skinny-jeaned hipsters tell us again and again, it’s that marriage is boring. The same person, day in and day out. You eat dinner together. You do chores together. You get into arguments because one of you keeps yelling at the TV about some sporting event while the other is trying to write a hilarious blog post about how boring marriage is. You get the picture.

That’s all especially true if one spouse has a boring job. You know the type – computers, accounting, anything with the word “actuary” in it. Those normal-people jobs that provide valuable services and pay the bills. Yawn. If your spouse has a job in any of those fields, it’s probably been years since you talked about their day. You know about their day. Their day was boring. Just like tomorrow will be, and the day after that, until the sweet release of death. Or retirement.

But imagine if you discovered that your husband or wife were actually only pretending to be the world’s most mundane person for your benefit, and they were in fact a secret agent who led a very exciting life in every way that doesn’t involve you. Well, there are a number of ways you might respond in that situation. Let’s look at the Hollywood versions of them.

Nothing revitalizes a marriage like the discovery that it's all been a lie.

True Lies

Summary: Jamie Lee Curtis plays Helen Tasker, a bored, gullible woman whose husband Harry, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, is the world’s most ripped and unintelligible computer salesman.

"Who hea wan buy da compooda?"

Helen desperately wants an adventure, which she stumbles on one day when Bill Paxton, donning an impressive sexual predator mustache, convinces her that he’s a spy and asks her to hold a briefcase filled with maps. Classic spy behavior.

Harry, believing his wife to be having an affair with what turns out to be not a spy but a used car salesman, decides to give her the real spy treatment and kidnap her. Because Harry is, of course, not a buff, Austrian salesman, but a covert agent working for a counter-terrorism unit. He takes a break from fighting terrorists (don’t worry, I’m sure they’re not planning anything HUGE) to devote valuable resources to forcing his wife on a fake spy mission.

Helen’s weird, sexual espionage involves her posing as a prostitute, dancing and stripping for a man she believes to be a total stranger. But it’s actually Harry, who plans to reveal himself and give her this single rose which will make it alllll better.

Such a thin line between romance and sexual assault.

Helen rightfully attacks him, and even though Harry previously held his own in a shoot out against three armed men in a public bathroom, getting kicked in the gut by his 100 lb wife pretty much takes him out. But just as Helen is escapingterrorists rush in and kidnap both Harry and Helen. Whoops, turns out they were planning something huge. No one could have foreseen that.

They’re drugged and taken to Florida, where Harry is given truth serum and reveals his double life to Helen. She punches him in the face, but forgives him when he rescues her, stops the terrorists and saves the free world. I’m glossing over that part, but you get it. Explosion, explosion, helicopter, pun.

A year later, Helen and Harry have a happy, sexy marriage where he takes her out dancing and she no longer wears ridiculous glasses that make her look like a turtle. Win win.

Lesson Learned: Danger is sexy. If you find out that your significant other is a covert agent, at least give him the chance to rescue you. If you’re lucky, you’ll find out while being held hostage by terrorists, since it will provide an immediate and giant threat to fight in order to prove his love.


Summary: Katherine Heigl plays Jen, who travels to Nice on vacation with her parents and meets Spencer, played by Ashton Kutcher. Spencer, it turns out, is a trained assassin who is in Nice to plant a bomb. But after one drunken date with Jen he decides to leave the murder business and marry her.

Flash forward a few years and Spencer and Jen are the classic suburban couple. Huh, apparently it’s actually really easy to leave a life of murder behind. That is, until Jen surprises him with tickets to Nice and he finds out there’s a $20 million bounty on his head.

That’s when everyone in the suburbs turns out to be secret assassins and starts attacking him left and right.

Just your typical soccer mom/killer for hire.

Luckily suburban assassins are terrible, allowing Spencer to escape time and time again. But with all the attempts on his life, Jen learns the truth about Spencer’s past. Then she pukes and announces she might be pregnant. TWIST!

If this were filmed in 1985 in front of a live studio audience there’d be a lot of gasps and “Ooooh!” But today’s cynical audiences just shake our heads and wonder how Katherine Heigl managed to squander all of the cool points she earned from Knocked Up. Seriously, she called Knocked Up sexist, then went on to star in a movie where women hold guns like this:

Anyway, it turns out that Jen’s dad is the guy that Spencer was supposed to kill in Nice, and he put the bounty on his head. Awkward. They’re all about to kill each other, but when Jen tells her father about her pregnancy everyone forgives everyone else and they live happily ever after – despite the fact that most of their suburban friends are dead.

Lesson Learned: Don’t get bogged down in who was supposed to kill who, you owe it to your marriage and your half-assassin baby to stick it out and make things work. No one said marriage was easy, and your vows don’t have an escape clause if it turns out your husband once tried to murder your father.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith

Summary: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie play John and Jane Smith, a husband and wife whose marriage is as boring as their names. They’re each skilled assassins, but apparently their skills don’t include spotting other assassins, because they’ve been operating under their mundane cover stories with each other for five years.

After learning the truth about each other, they have a shootout but ultimately can’t kill the spouse that they barely know and were really bored with a few minutes ago. Their employers don’t have the same problem, however, and soon a whole bunch of people are trying to kill them.

Even when their home has been destroyed, they're still too pretty to earn my sympathy.

With so many people after them, the Smiths team up and kill a whole bunch of people in a department store. And that, my friends, is true love.

Lesson Learned: The lesson from all three of these movies is clear. If your spouse turns out to be a trained killer, your only choice is to join them on their mission. Ignore the bedrock of lies, your own lack of experience taking human life and the fact that you actually know very little about this person, and help them defeat an army of assassins. It’ll be good for your marriage, and you’ll either relight the romantic spark or die trying. Probably die trying.

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3 Responses to Film School: What to do if your boring spouse turns out to be a spy

  1. Ron Donald says:

    I think we missed about 1-gazillion Ashton Kutcher jokes.

  2. Ripatranzone says:

    I really hope you didn’t watch all of these movies for research. True Lies I can understand cause it was the 90s and there was no Internet but the rest, yipes.

  3. outspokenslacktivist says:

    No, I don’t take my research that seriously. The only one I’ve ever seen is True Lies, but I did watch it recently. And it was exactly as bad as I had always suspected.

    The rest of these summaries are made possible by the (I suspect) very lonely people who watch terrible movies and write detailed summaries of them on Wikipedia. Thanks, weirdos, you’re the real heroes!

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