Gwyneth Paltrow as Michelle and Joaquin Phoenix as
Leonard in James Gray's drama "Two Lovers", which expanded its theatrical
release today to numerous
U.S. cities including San Francisco, at the Embarcadero Center Cinema.
(Photo: Magnolia Pictures)
In Brooklyn It's Last Chance Lenny, With Eyes Wide Shut
Omar P.L. Moore/PopcornReel.com
Friday, February 27, 2009
Ignoring recent events surrounding Joaquin Phoenix, in "Two Lovers" the actor
brings one of his more nuanced performances, the last of his acting career.
The two-time Academy Award nominee is at his devilish best in a film that plays
much more like a grim comedy than a drama. Leonard Kraditor (Mr. Phoenix) is
emotionally distraught, literally in the deep end as the film begins, a man
still living with his cloying and meddling Jewish parents Ruth and Reuben (Isabella Rossellini
and Moni Monshonov) in the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn, New York, with a
job in his father's dry cleaning business. Still devastated after the loss
of his fiance, Leonard is encouraged to fall in love with a woman of his faith,
Sandra (Vinessa Shaw). As luck (or un-luck) would have it, there happens
to a second woman, one within the same apartment complex across from Lenny's
bedroom window who
presents an irresistible dilemma for him. Michelle (Gwyneth Paltrow)
however, has her own set of problems.
Director James Gray shows his admiration for Stanley Kubrick (who passed away ten
years ago next month,) not only with a poster of the film "2001: A Space Odyssey" but an
additional homage to Mr. Kubrick's final film "Eyes Wide Shut", in which Miss Shaw also
appeared. There the actress played a prostitute who lured Tom Cruise into
a potential adulterous encounter. Here Miss Shaw flickers with warmth and
wisdom while displaying the girl-not-so-next-door acuity, although often her smile
slyly conveys a you-know-what-you-want-stop-playing-games-with-me demeanor.
"Eyes Wide Shut" is evoked in several other scenes, including a near kiss of one
character by another (recall the scene in the morgue with Mr. Cruise's Bill
Harford character) and with the continual ringing of cell phones at the most
inopportune (or opportune) moments. In Mr. Kubrick's film the phones were
interventions at times of would-be philandering opportunities.
All of this is to say that "Two Lovers", which opened today at the
Embarcadero Center Cinema in
San Francisco among other places, is definitely worth all the melancholy and realism one can muster. The
anti-hero of love conquers a mountain or two and when trials and tribulations
make life worth escaping from you can count on the devil's candy to rear its
head from the depths. There is a shot or two recalling Hitchcock's
"Vertigo" as well. Stylistic flourishes however don't intrude on
a compelling and riveting story (screenplay by Mr. Gray and Richard Menello), which
sees its participants swinging back and forth on love's uncertain pendulum.
Lenny isn't the only character caught between a rock and a hard place, but he's
the one that seems to grow the least as a result of all his troubles.
Ms. Paltrow manages to be likable playing a somewhat unlikable character.
Ms. Rossellini displays the earthiness and appeal that makes her an enduring
film legend and there are other performances that make the film an unnerving
spectacle of raw emotion and heartbreak with an ending that may or may not be
tailor-made for that old devil called love.
With: Bob Ari, Elias Koteas, Julie Budd, Samantha Ivers, Anne Joyce and Jeanine
"Two Lovers" opened earlier this month in New York and Los Angeles and other
various select U.S. cities. The film is rated R by the Motion Picture
Association Of America for language, some sexuality and brief drug use.
The film's running time is one hour and 50 minutes.
PopcornReel.com YouTube Review Of "Two Lovers" (two
minutes and two seconds)
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