Two Lovers Reviews
Two Lovers features Juaquin Phoenix as a damaged soul (now there's a stretch, based on what has happened to him since this film) who, while barely coping with life (he was dealt a raw deal concerning his former fiance)meets up with two diametrically opposed women; one, who his Jewish family is pushing on him, wants to protect and "cure" him, while the other, in a daring performance by Gwyneth Paltrow, is just as damaged and even more needy than Phoenix.
The story ark is familiar, and yet it works well here, due to Phoenix's odd and somehow detached performance; charming one moment and yet a ghost of a man who lives with his parents in others.
The scenes with Paltrow and Phoenix together, especially those that take place on the building's roof, shot as though you are an easdropper, with walls in the way as the charactors move about, are sizzling. The cinematography throughout is wonderful and moody, with nice lighting touches as when Phoenix and Paltrow converse from their rooms across an alleyway.
The ending scenes holds enough suspense that, even if you seriously suspect what's coming, the way in which it is presented will satisfy you.
Now some may find the resolution of the film disquieting (I know I did), but really, it fits the charactor, and is honest to the film and all that has come before, however distasteful you might find it. Again, what is love? Is it mutual need? Perhaps. This film certainly let's you ponder the conundrum.
With the melodrama, pregnant silences and facial angst, it's kind of like a James Mangold film but quickly written and less ponderous. Whatever the cast and filmmakers try, the attempt feel sincere even if it fails, so that any 3 minutes of film seem careful and unpretentious. The director subtly mixes placid, classical storytelling with some unshowy New-Wavish street shots. And he plays with comic setups for meaningful commentary on the characters.
The movie's most believable aspect is its philosophic one, which comes out of interactions between the characters that are entirely believable. Each main character falls in love based on their sense of their weaknesses, of what would give their life new and complete meaning and strength, make them born again. And it's also a story of what it means to grow up, of a character in suspended adolescence having to surrender the self's amorphous dreams to the world that expects you. Maybe it's the tragic twin of Elaine May's Heartbreak Kid.
Leonard Kraditor is a burned-out case, living with his immigrant parents after his fiancée left him, helping out at their Brooklyn dry cleaners, taking photographs, at loose ends, suicidal. In quick succession, he meets two women: Sarah, the daughter of his parents' business associates, frank, direct, sensual, Jewish like Leonard; and, his neighbor Michelle, mercurial, rootless, fun, blond, unattainable. Michelle is in love with a married man and cries on Leonard's shoulder; Sarah wants to save him. Is Leonard willing to risk losing Sarah's fidelity for the moments Michelle's moods swing toward him? Can this end well?
Joaquin Phoenix was exceptionnal, as always. He ended his career beautifully. Nice to see Gwyneth Paltrow's performance too.
Overall, I didn't expect much from this movie, and it turned out to be a very pleasant surprise.
Two Lovers is predictable as hell. This thing wouldn't have been more predictable if I had written the damn thing. There are no curve balls or twists in this one- you see where its headed by the half way point. Too bad the entire thing is dull as hell. Leonard's life doesn't come of as pathetic, he's creepy. I can see that they were going for two pathetic characters getting together, but it just doesn't work because Phoenix and Paltrow have as much chemistry as oil and water. They just don't work together. Who am I kidding, the entire movie doesn't really gel. It's one big, dull mess that just drives you to screaming for the ending that we all know is coming anyway. It may sound like a marquee pair up but you may want to pass on this pathetic, cliched, sentimental film.
As realistic and refreshing as the Two Lovers is in some ways, it also manages to be a bit glacial and boring at times. I appreciate the reasons behind this, but that doesn't completely excuse these faults in my eyes. Joaquin Phoenix and his two female co-stars do a wonderful acting jobs, and I was pretty satisfied with how the whole story played out.
This isn't necessarily a feel-good story, but by the end of the movie I felt that things were actually better for Joaquin's character. I wouldn't recommend this to everyone, but anyone with patience and a hunger for a less mainstream take on adult relationships might enjoy this.
A Brooklyn-set romantic drama about a bachelor (Phoenix) torn between the family friend his parents wish he would marry and his beautiful but volatile new neighbor.
This is an outstanding movie. I believed in the characters, all of whom were presented sympathetically - unique for a movie like this. The characters are not stereotypes, and behave in ways that while natural are not expected. It is also a very romantic movie. The acting is excellent. In particular Joaquin Phoenix is terrific. He plays what should be an impossible role - instead, he is completely natural and right. The actress who plays the mother is perfect - and the character is also a remarkable one. The movie really stayed with me - in a good way. I thought about it for a long time after it was over. I recommend it very highly.
Also remarkable is the film's sense of place. It is set in the Brighton Beach area of New York City, which is deep in Brooklyn. Let's put it this way: no Manhattanites ever go there. But there's something distinctive and flavorful about the outer edges of the city, and Gray brings this to the screen beautifully. The cast is also very good, led by [b]Joaquin Phoenix[/b] and [b]Gwyneth Paltrow[/b]. [b]Isabella Rossellini[/b] does a fine job in a supporting role. She is still luminous.
But there are substantial weaknesses, especially in the editing and the script. Gray's approach to editing is so pedestrian here that the film gets flat and one-dimensional about halfway through. Many scenes are too long, causing the film to slacken in a yawn-inducing way.
The problem with the script is that the story is not developed enough. The core elements are good, but there is not much more than the skeleton of a good story. I needed to know more about these people and wanted to see them dealing with more things. The bare-bones minimalism made for a viewing experience that was not that enriching. If we had gotten to know more about the supporting characters, the film would have been expanded greatly. As it stands, the supporting characters are part of the wallpaper.
I have said it before, but it bears repeating. We have many great directors in America today but almost no great screenwriters. This has to change. Cinema is not just a visual medium. Is something missing in film schools today? We appear to be teaching aspiring filmmakers how to use cameras but not how to develop stories. Given that today's artistic filmmakers typically write their own scripts (following the European auteurist tradition), it is crucial that film schools get as serious about screenwriting as they are about cinematography. Film is going to die as an art form if we do not attend to this problem. Viewers want deeply engaging stories when they go to the movies.
Phoenix plays a young lower-middle-class man of Russian-Jewish extraction who has some psychological challenges and has tried to commit suicide at least once. The word "bipolar" is mentioned, as are anti-depressants -- but the point is not belabored. There is no psychobabble in the script, thank God. Currently staying with his parents in Brooklyn, this fragile young man is trying to regain his balance. He has begun to date a nice, but slightly plain girl from the neighborhood (played nicely by [b]Vinessa Shaw[/b]). It's unfortunate that the film pays so little attention to her. About all we learn about her is that she's humble and enamored of Phoenix's character.
Then someone new moves into the neighborhood, a beautiful young woman with a job in Manhattan and quite a few problems. This more exciting girl is played by Paltrow. A friendship grows immediately between her and Phoenix, but he wishes it could be more, as he is falling in love very quickly. Gradually her life difficulties are revealed, and the possibility of romance is thrown into question. Complicating matters is the fact that she is dating a wealthy married man and appears to be in love with him. He can take her to four-star restaurants and the Metropolitan Opera, for example.
These plot details might give the impression that "Two Lovers" is a soap opera. It most certainly is not. Gray's concern is to explore in a quiet way the inner space of the characters as they seek happiness and deal with disappointment. I like this approach, but I wish there had been more exploration.
(If you'd like to explore more James Gray, rent his criminally overlooked "The Yards" from 2000, starring Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, Faye Dunaway and a host of others.)