Two Lovers - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Two Lovers Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ April 15, 2010
A profoundly involving romantic drama crafted with a sophisticated direction and great performances from its entire cast - mainly Joaquin Phoenix, who is absolutely perfect and brings this melancholic tale of depression and impulsive passion to another level.
Super Reviewer
May 2, 2011
A very schizophrenic movie. As in, I loved the parts with Gwyneth Paltrow, hated the parts with that other chick.
Super Reviewer
October 16, 2010
examines what love is, or more precisely, what we THINK love is.

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.
Super Reviewer
½ February 16, 2009
Joaquin Phoenix's performance is superb in this drama film. There is something profoundly moving and profoundly truthful here and I'm sure it has to do with Phoenix's portrayal. Gwyneth Paltrow is wonderful as the girl walking an emotional tightrope. And Vinessa Shaw is a real find. I was also moved by Isabella Rossellini as Joaquin's mother! Beautiful and intense but unlike many of her contemporaries not "cosmetic" A real extraordinary face. In fact she looks more like her mother Ingrid Bergman now than she ever did.
Super Reviewer
December 6, 2009
Two Lovers is 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. It is a movie about how love sometimes make you feel miserable. The movie is really interesting, you can feel the tension and the anxiety from the character performed by Joaquin Phoenix. It follows a slow pace rhythm but it never falls into boredom. The locations are really good because they shew you a New York that not everybody knows. The cast is wonderful Joaquin Phoenix is excellent, he delivers a very credible performance, Gwyneth Paltrow is awesome, this role fits her really good, Isabella Rosellini as Phoenix mother is delightful and Vinessa Shaw as Sandra is also great. In conclusion, Two Lovers is a movie worthy of a chance to see.
Super Reviewer
December 24, 2009
Outstanding Movie, Joaquin Phoenix plays part of a Bachelor who is recovering from a suicide attempt after his fiancée ran off before his wedding, so he lives at home with his Mom and Dad, Depression is a major part of his life until he finds a friend in a business partner of his Dad's and then a person living in the apartment across from him comes into the picture, so now he is torn between two lovers, The one he want's and the one that want's him. Excellent story, but you will have to watch to see who he chooses. 5 Stars
Super Reviewer
July 2, 2009
An involving, touching romantic drama that effectively captures the pain, guilt, and sorrow some people hold in their past and how it affects their present-day life. Phoenix, as always, is terrific in a story that is centered around him, as his love for one girl (Gwyneth Paltrow) forces him to stray away from a realistic and promising future with another (Vinessa Shaw). Emotionally heavy, with an unpredictable ending that I for one didn't see coming. Hopefully this isn't Joaquin's last movie, this film alone shows that he is a tremendous actor.
Super Reviewer
November 7, 2009
what a beautiful surprising movie. Joaquin is amazing. i heard a rumor that hes retiring or something and that would really suck. Gwyneth Paltrow is really good like she usually is and Elias Koteas is one of the best supporting actors around, yet he is almost like the invisible man to the public. Vinessa Shaw gets hotter every year. ok back to the movie though. Joaquin plays an awkward reclusive i want to say autistic man but i dont know. maybe hes autistic in real life, in which case im an asshole for saying that. this is one of the most realistic lovestories ive seen in a while. it plays like life. the writers didnt sit down and say "what ironic quirky line could he say here" its not trying to impress with over-the-top indie-ness. it just tries to be a good film.
Super Reviewer
November 8, 2009
Both leads mix good and bad acting; the script takes shortcuts and Phoenix and each girl have sex before really laying the groundwork for making a move.

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.
Super Reviewer
½ February 13, 2009
Pretty good movie. Very good acting from Joaquin Phoenix.

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?
Super Reviewer
October 10, 2009
Lately most movies have bored me to tears, an although this idea's been done many times before, it effectively captured my interest. Great characters, and even though Joaquin's character is kinda crappy, you really just want the best things for him and to have it all work out.
Super Reviewer
April 4, 2009
Pretty impressive movie from James Gray, who did a really great job.

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.
Super Reviewer
½ August 14, 2009
Hardly original but sleek and engaging romantic drama. I found the New York jewish setting tiresome but Phoenix repays Gray's fascination with him with another solid performance. Some of the plot points seemed unbelievable and the ending in particular felt contrived.
Super Reviewer
February 12, 2009
Melancholy romantic drama about suicidal, socially awkward Leonard who is torn between the sensible, attractive daughter of a family friend, who loves him and the lively, but self destructive, next door neighbor he is drawn to. Moody character driven film is rather soporific at times, but is ultimately grounded by the performances, particularly actress Vinessa Shaw who is nicely understated as the likable Sandra. Film marks the 3rd time director James Gray and Joaquin Phoenix have worked together.
Super Reviewer
July 1, 2009
You know that kid in high school that is obsessed with the unattainable girl that he'll never get in a million years, yet he keeps trying and somewhere in his mind he's getting close to attaining her affections, yet there is a wonderful girl in the wings ready to be his one? That's essentially what Two Lovers is about. Joaquin Phoenix plays a suicidal neighbor to Gweneth Paltrow's neighbor who is in love with a married lawyer in the firm she works for. Leonard (Phoenix) slowly develops a relationship Michelle (Paltrow) as she continues to lead a rough road that includes drugs, her disastrous relationship, and here need for Leonard as a crutch. Meanwhile Leonard is in a relationship with Vanissa (Sandra Cohen) the daughter of the man who is going to take over his fathers dry cleaning business. The relationship blossoms when Leonard realizes that he'll never have Michelle, but that all changes with a cell phone ringing.

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.
Super Reviewer
February 10, 2009
Wow, I haven't seen very many subdued, slow-paced dramas like this. There's no stereotypical happy ending, no absurd plot-devices to keep the characters on the paths that they would follow on a more mainstream movie, and the characters actually seem to be three-dimensional instead of dry caricatures.

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.
Super Reviewer
May 3, 2009
Starts off as a promising zany-girl-saves-introverted-guy story, but then it degenerates into cliche "I'm too fucked up for you to love me" drivel. The dialogue preceding the improbable rooftop sex scene is utterly banal and uninspired. Why does Leonard love Michelle anyway? Is it merely because she's beautiful? She doesn't seem to have any other redeeming qualities. Is it merely because Leonard has an addictive personality? The motivation needs to be set up properly. The ending (after the beach scene) is excellent - reminiscent of a Woody Allen drama, but alas, what comes before just doesn't bring anything new to the table.
Super Reviewer
½ February 10, 2009
"You're the most beautiful, amazing woman ever."

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.
Super Reviewer
½ March 14, 2009
I really hope that the whole "I want to be a rapper" is a hoax because Joaquin Pheonix is outstanding in this film. All in all the entire cast is really good and that is what is so frustrating about the film. I guess my biggest problem was that I just didn't understand some the main character's choices. I know that the sense of adventure that Paltrow brought to his life was hard to turn away, but when you have something as beautiful and cool as Shaw seemed to be, I just don't know why you would want to put up with the hassle and baggage. That paired with the fact that the movie went down a pretty generic road also left me wanting more. The film overall looks amazing (I will give Gray that, I love the way he shoots his films), but I just couldn't get into it as much as I wanted to once I saw where it was headed.
Bill D 2007
Super Reviewer
March 11, 2009
"Two Lovers" is a melancholy film about broken people struggling to find love. Its major strength is its soulful and intelligent cinematography. This is due to the great talent of director [b]James Gray[/b], who still gets bizarrely little press in this country. (From what I hear, he's almost a household name in France.)

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.)
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