Monday, May 17, 2010

A Movie Review: Two Lovers (2008)

Two Lovers (2008)
Director - James Gray
110 Min; R
Leonard - Joaquin Phoenix
Michelle - Gwyneth Paltrow
Sandra - Vinessa Shaw

As the title of the film Two Lovers implies, this film will indeed revolve around two lovers. As my cast credits imply, those lovers are the wholesome and pretty Sandra (Vinessa Shaw) as the daughter of a successful family who is nudged more than gently in the direction of our bi-polar leading man Leonard (Joaquin Phoenix), who, though he would be wise to simply fall in love and live happily ever after, simply cannot take his eyes (or hands) off of the anti-Sandra Michelle (Gwyneth Paltrow), who fuels her New York nights with pills and booze and nightclubs in the effort to rid her mind of the terrible life she feels she leads as the mistress to a married man.

While the plot of the film is fairly straight-forward, the story being told is actually very nuanced. The parents of Leonard and Sandra do a wonderful job of portraying what people from their generation in their cultures would look to do for their children, though today’s younger generation may not be able to relate fully to that type of caring, it isn’t all that uncommon. I think their minor performances are a strong glue to the film.

As for our 3 lovers I think things begin to unravel at some unknown point. Early on I found myself pulled into this story of a suicidal young man (Why was he suicidal? What were the details of his ex fiancé?) and especially to the life of Sandra (Why was such a pretty, young, intelligent woman always rejected by men? What was going on there?) And then we get Michelle. I must divulge here that I am a serial-hater of Paltrow and her films, but I am more than willing to overlook that and say that I was interested at first in what she had to bring, but very quickly I realized that what her character had to bring was a steaming pile of genericism(sic) onto which I could never fully recover. Her entire life situation is too convenient for the role of this film and it bothered me, though I understand something has to move the plot, this just felt very forced – her being given an apartment by her married boyfriend next to Leonard of all people, the exact person who is looking for some way to further destroy his life? Ok, I guess. There is more but I’ll move on.

Ultimately the ending is a failure, and I say that in the sense that I/you/we/everyone could see it coming from as far away as a Hubble telescope image of the edge of the universe. Do I always have to be surprised? Or tricked? No, of course not, but the ending was so telegraphed that as it was happening I found myself guessing exactly what would happen next, for about 20 minutes.
I feel a little bad sounding so judgmental in the past few paragraphs because, overall, I am glad I saw this film and surprised it was never on my radar. I can’t honestly say that I didn’t enjoy a lot of it, but I can honestly say that it has a lot of faults.


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