The Thing Called Love - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Thing Called Love Reviews

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½ March 23, 2016
"The Thing Called Love" is forever doomed to be a footnote in a rising career, a forgettable, misguided feature infamous for what it represents and not for what it actually is. Released in 1993, it was the final film of River Phoenix, who died of a drug overdose at The Viper Room that same year and has since lived on as the Marlon Brando that wasn't. Twenty-three years after the tragedy, he's become a legendary figure of the 1990s, an actor so remarkable during his short career that most can't help but wonder what Hollywood would be like today if he had never met death, at least not so upsettingly early.
Considering his exceptional work in such modern classics as "Stand By Me" (1986), "Running On Empty" (1988), and "My Own Private Idaho" (1991), we wish that "The Thing Called Love," directed by pioneering filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich, were a swan song epitomizing his disparate talents. But it's a relative stinker further brought down by the fact that Phoenix, normally such a clear-eyed, mercurial performer, is sullen and quiet. Part of us wants to tell ourselves that it's a part of his characterization (he's an enigmatic, bad boy of an aspiring country musician), but another is convinced that he's suffering, hiding behind a character he doesn't want to play while lost in a sea of his personal demons.
And so "The Thing Called Love" is an uncomfortable experience; when we aren't recoiling at the screenplay's many misfires, or Bogdanovich's sometimes wince-inducing staging, we're left downcast in regards to Phoenix. Though I'm sure nothing was evidently wrong with him during production, knowing of his fate leaves us watching for signs of his demise like a hawk, and we see them much more routinely than we'd like. His dialogue is mumbly, his always-there enthusiasm nowhere to be found. It's distracting, and because the film is only adequate in totality, reveling in "The Thing Called Love" is insuperable.
Phoenix, however, isn't its star: that would be Samantha Mathis, who began dating the actor during filming and was with him in The Viper Room at the time of his death (she had no idea of his drug use). She plays Miranda Presley, a blond from New York City who dreams of making it big in Nashville as a country star. Arriving in the city on a Greyhound bus like any conventional twenty-something, she heads straight for the renowned Bluebird Café, a hot spot for opportunistic singer-songwriters looking for possible fame.
But in a nice twist (formula can sometimes get tiresome), Miranda is the sort who can play the guitar passably and can carry a tune decently, but is, overall, about as much of a star as your average tween girl posting average covers of average classics on YouTube. The bar's owner (K.T. Oslin) rejects her initial audition, but sees spunk and ambition in Miranda that leads her to hire her as a waitress, keeping her in Nashville until her potential turns into something substantial.
Her workwoman persistence is matched by Kyle Davidson (Dermot Mulroney), an earnest singing cowboy, Linda Lue Linden (Sandra Bullock), a cutesy ditz of Loretta Lynn wannabe, and James Wright (Phoenix), a bad boy guitarist who sings like a bratty Bob Dylan attempting to belt. The group quickly forms a quasi-community - but, of course, complications materialize. Though Linda Lue and Miranda prove to be fast friends, roommates in the blink of eye, the latter becomes intwined in a love triangle with the men she becomes acquainted with. She gravitates toward James, who is self-congratulating and emotionally mysterious, but is also charmed by Kyle, who is sweet to her and more realistic in his career path. A couple of bad decisions later and Miranda runs the risk of becoming disenchanted with Nashville completely. But diligence is something that pays off, and Miranda is not the kind of girl who throws it all away for love.
Fitted with performative chutzpah and a few precocious scenes and you'd think "The Thing Called Love" would make for a disarming romantic comedy-drama able to cajole in its musicality and its direction. But it only sometimes succeeds, though even saying so is an exaggeration. Its problem is not so much with Bogdanovich or its ensemble and as it with Carol Heikkinen's screenplay, which concocts your typical show business drama without anything new to say. I'm not against recycling so long as it's done with wit and sparkle, but "The Thing Called Love" is neither smart nor affecting enough for us to take it as much more than pure contrivance. We can envision a great movie hidden beneath its flightiness.
Maybe Bogdanovich, also a co-writer for his masterpieces "The Last Picture Show" and "What's Up, Doc?," could have even made it himself had he still been a young upstart. But the film is dependent on a script capable only of forging relationships of the thinnest quality, characters of the failed TV drama kind. When we aren't converted by its many scenes of mediocrity, we depart in disappointment in response to the fact that drama, comedy, and romance are all there but are executed with sloppy precision.
And it's dispiriting; I like its cast (Mathis is a bold heroine, and Bullock makes for effective comic relief), and I like its premise. But "The Thing Called Love" is smothered by frustrating mediocrity - we know it could be much better than it is, and we're let down that Phoenix's last complete screen performance is so deterred by his own downfall. If 1993 weren't his final year, the film would be a debacle of his past, sure to be long forgotten after decades of terrific movies. Instead, it's an end to a career that should have been more than just promising, and it's disheartening.
½ February 12, 2016
Why is this cover and year so wrong. Formulaic and lacking emotional weight. Still, something about it worth seeing.
½ August 7, 2015
Algo insulsa en conclusiones, y no demasiado thrilling, pero una emotivo viaje lleno de bonitos detalles y muchas posibilidades de empatia sentimental.
½ April 8, 2015
River Phoenix's last completed film is lighthearted and sweet but watery in it's betrayal of the material.
½ February 4, 2015
Dated music, but it's not a bad movie. I've seen better, I've seen worse. One of the late River Phoenix last performances. I thought the singing was awful. Nobody knew how to carry a tune. Trisha Yearwood has a bit part(but doesn't sing) from the time of her heyday in the early 90s. Also has appearances by K. T. Osland and Pam Tillis. One of Sandra Bullock's early performances before she became a star. Watch and enjoy it for what it is, but don't expect too much.
½ April 15, 2014
First off, this wasn't River's last movie. Dark Blood was technically his last movie, even though it wasn't finished. This was one of his final movies. His performance is really quite a sad one. This was at the height of his drug use, and it shows in his acting. It is by no stretch of the imagination that he was high during some of these takes. During Dark Blood he managed to stay clean, before ultimately relapsing and unfortunately dying. This movie was a lost cause, though. Even if he was clean and at his best, this movie would have still flopped. It just wasn't all there in general, which is unfortunate. In my mind, River still ended on a high note with Dark Blood. That which, had it been completed, I believe would've been perhaps his greatest film. As I mentioned in my review of it, there's a lot hidden in that film that makes it quite genius.
October 30, 2013
Amazing cast and great performances. At first you don't like James behavior and then he changes your mind again and again. Kyle is crazy about Miranda and doesn't do anything about it. And she, well...she gets caught up between two handsome men who love her and her music. Linda doesn't get much attention here but it's a funny character. Despite this large content to explore, The Thing Called Love doesn't delivers. For two hours, there's too much mess and indecision and it gets on your nerves. The script wasn't developed enough and the end is quite unsatisfying. It's a shame because the songs are great and Phoenix, Bullock, Mathis and Mulroney are excellent actors. Their performances save the movie to be honest.
August 18, 2013
I love River Phoenix and Samantha Mathis, and Peter Bogdanovich is a great director, but the story wasn't gripping enough.
August 6, 2013
My Favorite Film Is 1941's Citizen Kane.
½ July 16, 2013
Okay love and country music flick.
April 2, 2013
I LOVE THIS MOVIE. This movie is one of my most favoured movies ever. I love the whole cast, mostly River Phoenix and Dermot Mulroney. Fantastic flick. And i dont even admire country music.
½ April 1, 2013
this was one of the last movies before river died and it is such a good movie. it has such a real feel to it and one of my faves of his. river was such a tremendous talent that gone way too soon.
January 12, 2013
have seen it i think it is a great movie
½ December 12, 2012
I love this movie and the cast! I don't understand the low rating???
September 28, 2012
Gotta give 5stars. Lol Represent! TN. She wears a Yankee hat into Nashville. :) Great old school movie.
September 21, 2012
this is one of my fav movies that River Phoenix plays in...watch this movie over and over
July 23, 2012
I can watch this movie over and over!
July 16, 2012
"Country music is popular with all those idiots we fly over going from New York to LA. Why don't we make a shitty formulaic movie about it."
June 24, 2012
jason send this back to me so i can watch
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