Saturday, February 28, 2009

Having Two Lovers Is Sometimes To Hard To Handle

James Gray finally gives us a film without the crime element and it is remarkable. "Two Lovers" is a moving tale about the power of love on a man who is at best unstable. And at his best is a surprisingly gifted man. The power that one emotion can have over another person is scary at times but can be a beautiful thing. But even that can become old and tiresome. Two lovers dwells in this place, a place of love but one that is on the brink of destruction.

Leonard Kraditor (Joaquin Phoenix) is a damaged, emotionally unstable man who has attempted suicide in his past, the film, ironically begins with yet another one. His life is dominated by a broken engagement, on medication for a bi-polar disorder, he's been reduced to living with his parents in the Russian and Jewish community of Brighton Beach, and is working in the dry cleaning establishment that's owned by his Pop, Reuben (Moni Moshikov). A friend of Leonard's father, Michael Cohen (Bob Ari) has a small chain of dry cleaners, and wants to incorporate Reuben's into his business. Cohen has a daughter, Sandra (Vinessa Shaw), whom the parents have set up with Leonard. He's only a little interested. But he does take her into his bedroom to show her some black and white photos that he has taken.

Later another woman unexpectedly appears, a new neighbor, the blond and dangerous Michelle (Gwyneth Paltrow). Even at their first meeting in the hallway she's in trouble, being verbally abused by her visiting father. And from then on whenever Michelle calls on Leonard, however bad the time or awkward the occasion, he can never say no. She's pretty, even glamorous, but also unhealthy. She's been on drugs. Leonard can see her upstairs windows from his room, and spends nights sitting watching for her. Sandra, who knows his problems and wants to take care of him, and Michelle who uses and takes advantage, she uses Leonard in her troubles with Ronald (Elias Koteas), her married lawyer boyfriend. Michelle asks Leonard to join them at a fancy restaurant to meet Ronald, and size him up, to tell her if he thinks Ronald will ever leave his wife.

Instead, while Michelle's in the ladies' room, Ron asks Leonard to keep an eye out for her and see that she's not using drugs again. Then Michelle and Ron go off to his firms box at the Met and leaves Leonard to be driven home in the company limo. It's a moment that defines Leonard's life. Leonard at first seems like a quiet loser, in one scene Michelle takes him to a club, he tries to rap in the car while they are on the way, once there he goes onto the dance floor and is so serious about his dancing that he can't see what everyone else is thinking. Michelle goes outside and when he joins her, they talk about leaving, she says she wants to get her bag, but never comes back out. When Leonard can't get back inside he decides to just leave.

After the dinner and the opera that he has been shut out of, Leonard buys a opera disc, when he gets home he plays it, Sandra comes over and he realizes what is available before him and the two end up in the bed, the next morning, after Sandra leaves, Michelle calls Leonard up to the roof to ask what he thinks about Ronald, he tells her that he thinks Ronald won't leave his wife, and that he loves Michelle, what Michelle tells Leonard next breaks his heart. He tells Michelle that they shouldn't speak again. Leonard's mother Ruth (Isabella Rossellini) is always looking out for him, she hovers everywhere, always asking if he is ok, or if he wants to join the family at dinner or a party. At Cohen's son's bar mitzvah, Michelle calls Leonard and tells him she is bleeding, Leonard runs back to the house to take her to a hospital, she miscarries and Leonard takes her home, while he is in her bedroom Ronald comes in and Michelle has him hide behind the bedroom door, she tells Ronald to just leave, that she wants to be alone.

Michelle tells Leonard she is going to end it with Ronald, they talk about running away to San Francisco together, Leonard buys the tickets and then goes to buy an engagement ring, he is so rapped up in Michelle that he can't see what he has right in front of him. The day comes when Leonard and Michelle plan to run away, Leonard is waiting for her and is almost pleading with her to come to him, when she does, what she tells Leonard almost causes him to walk into the ocean once again. In what seems like a movie starting with and ending with a suicide attempt, slowly turns into an awakening for Leonard. When he comes to understand what he is throwing away he picks up the ring he bought for Michelle and takes it back home to give to Sandra.

I give Two Lovers a 3 and on my avoidance scale a 0, sitting watching this movie brought a lot of emotions up, anyone who has ever loved and lost will understand what Leonard feels, and maybe can understand just how strong loss can become if it is empowered. The ending is a scene that will be found rather emotional or rather sad. This is a small independent film and may require some searching for, but it is well worth the time.

Two Lovers is rated R for Language, some Sexuality and Brief Drug Use
Running time is 1 hr. 49 mins.

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