Love Streams Reviews
Some times this movie soars, other times it stumbles. The thrills and flaws are equally interesting to watch. Cassavetes's "Robert" is a bit of cliche. A street smart "ladies man" who is out to work every angle to his advantage. Robert's interesting flaw is that he is aware that he has become a cliche and a train wreck. When his estranged sister arrives at his door with a car full of luggage that seems to never end. Robert's sister, Sarah, has a lot of baggage. Fighting to save her dead marriage and secure custody of her daughter she is more of a mess than her brother.
As was often the case, Gena Rowland is the magic core of the movie. She plays this character with a desperate and sometimes manic energy. We are never sure if "Sarah" is sane or more than a little crazy. But we do come to understand something about her that is essential.
Among a cast of "lost" characters who form her family, she might be the most "eccentric" and "unhinged" --- she contains a truth of identity, family and life: She understand the all importance of "love." As she says during one of her desperate rants to save her family she tells us that "love streams." It just streams and we need to follow it's current. In another magical scene she desperately tries to crack a smile from her annoyed daughter and frustrated soon-to-be ex-husband.
Robert and Sarah are lost, but not without hope. Hope offered by the possibility of love. Of course, this was always Cassavetes career-long theme: Characters seeking, needing and demanding love.
In the world of "Love Streams" love may not be attainable, but no one has a choice but to reach for it. As Cassavetes leads us to a truly "operatic" crescendo, we can't help but be entranced.
It may not qualify as a true cinematic masterpiece, but this is an important film. Most especially for those of us who love John Cassavetes and his muse, Gena Rowlands, -- this movie is essential Film Art.
In his glory days, he was a successful romance novelist. Womanizing was a hobby rather than a career. But the film shows him years later, completely washed up, selfish, and alone in his sprawling, wine glass covered mansion.
"What is a good time?" he desperately asks one of his companions. He isn't making conversation to get to know her; it seems that he is so starved for happiness that he wonders if there's some new formula for euphoria that he simply isn't aware of. When she meekly replies that sex is a good time (she doesn't even seem to believe it herself), disappointment floods over Robert's eyes. The disappointment isn't the sweet, forgivable kind that a child faces when a field trip is canceled. It instead feels like someone is telling him that the person he loves most has died, and afterwards, he gets punched in the face.
"Love Streams" was John Cassavetes' last film, and it's most certainly his most melancholy and reflective. Months before it was made, Cassavetes was informed that he was suffering from a terminal illness and had only six months to live. The sadness in his demeanor feels so true that Robert himself seems like a mutated autobiographical character. Robert's dying is not physical but emotional - his wonder years are far past him, and success and contentment have been replaced by crippling depression and booze.
Mirroring Robert's numbness is his sister Sarah (Gena Rowlands). In the middle of a divorce and back from a recent stay at a mental institution, Sarah is miserable but can't admit it to herself. Her daughter despises her; her husband has had enough. A psychiatrist recommends she take a lover or visit another country; in one of the film's most brutally funny scenes, Sarah arrives at a French train station, 10+ bags in tow, begging a confused security guard to help her carry them to her destination.
Rowlands is a severely underrated actress, one that carries an oddball charisma on her shoulders and a slightly screwball attitude. In "Love Streams," Rowlands looks like a faded Hollywood actress from the '50s; her blonde hair is curled and as big as her body, she wears glamorous outfits, even if she's dressing for no one, and she treats every situation as if she were a loony Bette Davis.
Later in the film, Robert and Sarah collide with brute force; after her unsuccessful trip to Europe, she randomly shows up at his house. He treats her like she's a sort of God; she fills his hollow void and is finally given a chance to utilize her clinginess.
"Love Streams" is about crazy, manic people, but Cassavetes makes it clear that they didn't begin as crazy people. Life turned them that way, whether it be through excessive living or a unrealistic expectation for love. The film is hard to sit through, as Cassavetes gives us no breathing room and clutters our eyes with an abundance of close-ups. Yet its unpredictability and stabbing laughs make it more than just a regular slice-of-life drama; some scenes are so bizarre that it makes the situation seem ever more realistic. After all, people don't always act like movie characters. The actors act as if there are no cameras in their midst, and that's one of the reasons "Love Streams" is so painful.
You want there to be a happy-go-lucky resolution; you want Robert and Sarah to find a way to curb their wounds. But Cassavetes is too fickle for that. These aren't the kind of people who will commit suicide to escape their troubles. They're people that don't even realize how messed up they are; in that sense, they'll never be able to change. You don't leave "Love Streams" in love or with a romanticized notion of drama; you're stunted.
That being said, I found the bond between brother and sister fascinating. Their dilemmas/lifestyles provide an interesting contrast when allowed to clash. It didn't awe me with the psychological depth of Faces or Husbands, but it had the charm of Minnie and Moskowitz. Like all of his films, because of the unpredictable nature of the story, it's hard to completely figure out how you feel until you see it again.