Two Lovers

2008

Two Lovers

Critics Consensus

Two Lovers is a complex, intriguing, richly-acted romantic drama

82%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 162

59%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 56,279
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Movie Info

A depressed young man moves back in with his parents and finds his life turned upside down as he struggles to choose between the beautiful daughter of a close family friend and the scintillating but volatile next-door neighbor whose passion helps to reignite his lust for life. The third screen outing for writer/director James Gray and actor Joaquin Phoenix following We Own the Night and The Yards, Two Lovers co-stars Gwyneth Paltrow, Isabella Rossellini, and Vinessa Shaw. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

Cast

Joaquin Phoenix
as Leonard Kraditor
Gwyneth Paltrow
as Michelle Rausch
Vinessa Shaw
as Sandra Cohen
Elias Koteas
as Ronald Blatt
Isabella Rossellini
as Ruth Kraditor
Moni Moshonov
as Reuben Kraditor
John Ortiz
as Jose Cordero
Julie Budd
as Carol Cohen
Bob Ari
as Michael Cohen
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Critic Reviews for Two Lovers

All Critics (162) | Top Critics (50) | Fresh (133) | Rotten (29)

  • Despair and confusion are explored in Two Lovers with a rigorous, unsentimental directness that is also full of feeling.

    Jun 5, 2009 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • Keeps a grip on you.

    Jun 5, 2009 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…
  • Phoenix plays that schism -- the damaged soul in a hunky body -- to perfection, so well that we overlook the logical chasm at the centre of the tale.

    Apr 10, 2009 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • Gray guides his strong cast to a resolution that is both surprising and entirely realistic.

    Apr 10, 2009 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • Gray's direction lovingly toys with images of containment and release, effectively playing out the drama in visual terms - but we never really feel it.

    Mar 27, 2009 | Rating: 3/6 | Full Review…
  • Kraditor's vacillating affections make up what could have been a frustratingly underpowered drama but for Gray's subtle, intelligent direction and Phoenix's raw performance.

    Mar 27, 2009 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

    Wendy Ide

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Two Lovers

  • May 31, 2014
    In the saturated genre that is romantic dramas, Two Lovers manages to distinguish itself in a truly unique way. It's a film that has familiar elements, certainly, but an uncommon execution with both a mature sensibility and nuanced look at relationships. The result is a layered film, a powerful character study, and an intelligent exploration of the nature of loss, love, and our underlying motivations. The film centers on Leonard Kraditor (Joaquin Phoenix), a broken, depressed man, who finds himself both courting a semi-arranged relationship by his parents, while also pursuing the equally lost but enchanting Michelle Rausch (Gwyneth Paltrow). He is thus thrust from a state of depression to one of uncertainly, but also a certain exhilaration. As the film progresses, we see the hidden vulnerabilities underlying all of the characters, making for some very fascinating dynamics. The performances are accordingly powerful, and result in a very nuanced film. The script paints us characters that we can all relate to, if not completely identify with. It's not a drama concerned with formula or easy answers, but rather asks the question of what motivates love and, perhaps more importantly, what motivates people? Through Joaquin Phoenix we see the wild swings of love, yet also witness its resiliency in the end, or perhaps just the pragmatics that underlines so many of our choices. Through Paltrow, we see a woman who is her own worst enemy, and with Vinessa Shaw's character, we see the longing for any sort of connection. All of these dynamics interact beautifully to create a richly conveyed story. If there's a criticism of Two Lovers, it's wanting more of an exploration of Phoenix's character, specifically his last relationship. We find out through various exchanges some of what took place, but this is never fully explored, and is certainly germane to his current state. Still, what's vital is hot so much how he arrived at this current emotional state but rather what that emotional state is, which the film achieves. Overall a very strong romantic drama. 4/5 Stars
    Jeffrey M Super Reviewer
  • Dec 28, 2013
    There were many pros and cons to this movie. First the pros. It was very realistic; the characters seemed real. The actors did an excellent job making me believe the situations. The emotions were so powerful it got a rise out of me. The cons were just the decisions made by the actors which were so frustrating. But that's life. People don't always make the wisest choices. I saw the ending coming from a mile away so it was predictable but it was still meaningful and told a good story.
    Dannielle A Super Reviewer
  • Apr 29, 2012
    Two lovers walk into a bar and... I don't know what happens after that. This film's title really does sound like it should be going somewhere after those first two words, and yet, it just kind of doesn't. Okay, maybe it doesn't so much feel like a set-up, but it does certainly feel like a bit of a cop-out, like the people who titled it could have thought up something more unique. I guess that just goes to show that James Gray doesn't need a crime movie to bring in total genericism, because the title to this thing, alone, is so same-old-same-old that it is, well, unique, because I can't think of any other romantic drama that would just tell it like it is that blatantly. Well, needless to say that, considering that this is a James Gray film, if you think that the title is devoid of subtlety, then just wait until you see the film itself, or at least that's what I thought until I actually saw the film. I guess it should have been enough of a dead giveaway that this film was going to be subtle when I read that it's based on an 1840s short story that passed for an Italian film upon its first adaptation, and it doesn't get much more subtle than that. Well, eitherway, the point is that there's plenty of complexity here, though not enough to fully overshadow the many flaws in this picture. Again, the film is with much subtlety, and boy, it better be, so it would at least have some kind of excuse for being as ponderous as it is. True, the film is not made up of consistent periods of total nothingness, one after the other, though it's not too far from that state. The story is meaty here and there, though its weight comes in spurts, showing up here and there to wake the audience up. Of course, for a film to have someone or something to pull you back into engagement, usually, you would have to have something disengaging to begin with, and while the film doesn't totally dismiss your investment, it does take its time at too many points of dry, boring (Yes, "boring") atmosphere. The film isn't a snoozefest, though it does have points where it is a challenge to stick with, as it is occasionally very dull at points, though constantly bone-dry in tone. Still, all of these missteps are simply components of the big picture that taints this film and keeps it from genuinely hitting: genericism, as this film falls into many a trope - from subject matter, plot points and dialouge to the aforementioned ponderous tone - found in films of this type, ultimately leaving the film, as a whole, to go whether limp and become rather forgettable. However, while the film, on the whole, is not at all upstanding or enthralling enough to be terribly memorable, there are still plenty of components that do stand out, and just enough to keep you going through all of the slowness and conventions. One of the biggest problems with the film is its being so very subtle to the point of being too slow for its own good, yet the story remains a complex one, and as things begin to unfold and jolt here and there, that subtlety comes into play pretty nicely. Sure, those moments of genuine resonance are far and few between, and even if they were closer together, there still wouldn't quite be enough pow behind the resonance to really wake you up, yet there are points where director/writer James Gray wakes up and delivers, not terribly sharply, but still with enough grace, and at just the right time, to sustain a fair degree of your investment. Still, the people that grip the most are easily those in front of the camera, for although Gray hits the occasional golden moment in direction, our performers are consistent, rather than occasional, in their being golden. Every performance is memorable, though some are certainly better than others, and among the biggest standouts in this film, we, of course, have Gwyneth Paltrow, whose portrayal of a deeply damaged and mysterious woman with much pain and many trappings in her life around many a corner is hauntingly emotional and assured, and where the Michelle Rausch character could have fallen flat as a rather obnoxiously manipulative and discomforting figure, Paltrow pumps her with so much humanity that you're drawn in whenever she brings the goods home. Still, the real star of the show is, well, the real star of the show: Joaquin Phoenix, who, as always, really makes it all count when he dones that "real star of the show" title. Our lead Leonard Kraditor character is certainly a bum, but a well-intentioned and charming one, with the desire and ability to do good for both himself and other, and that is an aspect in Kraditor that could have also come across as obnoxious, only to effortlessly go molded into electric charisma by Phoenix. However, as charming as our lead is, he is still, at the end of the day, a bi-polar, somewhat suicidal eccentric who still lives with his parents and goes plagued by lord knows what else, so of course he's a damaged lead, a fact that Phoenix sells beautifully and subtley, drenching Kraditor in a shroud of mystery that really plays with the layered humanity and limited exposition within our lead, creating a character that is characteristically all over the place, though not at all inconsistent, as Phoenix ties everything together with compelling emotional range in his presence in order to organically intensify both the mystery and engagement value in Kraditor, and when things begin to unravel in both the story and our lead to a very soberingly provocative stinger of an ending, Phoenix effortlessly nails it all with enthralling power to top-off his creation of an unforgettable lead of charisma, layers and compellingly subtle mysteries. Overall, the film often succumbs to what you would expect from other films of its type, and that includes a ponderous, bone-dry atmosphere that often falls into simply being all-out dull, and yet, while that certainly keeps the film from really delivering, there are enough golden moments in director/writer James Gray's execution of the resonance and complexities to get you by, though not as much as the memorable performances, particularly that of Gwyneth Paltrow, and especially that of Joaquin Phoenix, whose layered, charismatic, emotional and subtley mysterious lead performance as an unpredictable, yet very much struggling spirit stands as one of the biggest key components in making "Two Lovers", if nothing else, an ultimately rather intriguing piece. 2.5/5 - Fair
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • May 02, 2011
    A very schizophrenic movie. As in, I loved the parts with Gwyneth Paltrow, hated the parts with that other chick.
    Jennifer X Super Reviewer

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