Sunday, March 29, 2009

Two Lovers

James Gray's "Two Lovers" is being hailed as "different" and even "one of the best films of 2009" but I believe it's only a matter of Gray choosing to be slightly more thoughtful (this observation has been made before than his Hollywood counterparts. He doesn't really try to force anything, and sometimes this works and sometimes otherwise. It's quite an oddly-paced film, but sometimes this is what we all need.

Joaquin Phoenix, who has supposedly quit acting completely, tries his best to anchor it all as heartbroken Leonard, whose attempted to commit suicide after his fiancee leaves him. The same day, he meets a new woman, Sandra (Vinessa Shaw), who is the daughter of the man who's going to take over the family dry cleaning business. His parents (Isabella Rossellini and Moni Moshonov), charmed by Sandra's affection and tenderness towards Leonard, push for their son to get involved with her. He likes her, but he's more in love with his next door neighbor Michelle (Gwyneth Paltrow), who's very unstable and also involved with her law associate (Elias Koteas). Michelle relies for him to take care of her, since she needs someone to latch onto. Leonard is split because of the two lovers' ideas of the relationships. Gray handles it all well, but ultimately, the film's overall nature is forgettable.

I do admire the film's altogether lack of a real payoff, but it could have helped to have some tinges of intrigue. In some ways, it seemed like it was going in a "Vertigo" sort of way, due to the scene with Phoenix and Koteas at the restaurant where Koteas tells him to "keep an eye on" Michelle. But still, this could have really been amazing. There were only a couple of restrictors, but these held back the film's full potential. Phoenix is very good and delivers with a nuanced feel, but there are moments of such idiotic silliness that seem like character breaks. These seemed like attempts for Gray to provide comic relief, but they obscured the film's tragic aspects. Plus, I believe the film's overall lack of an impact fractured its chances of any sort of real memorability. But the film has its definite strong suits. Shaw and Paltrow are quite good in their respective roles, and Gray actually does a real character study, unaffected by the long and influential grasp of Hollywood. B+

No comments: