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IN SHORT: Seriously made and seriously good arthouse fare. [Rated R for language, some sexuality and brief drug use. 108 minutes]
Long time readers of this site know that we have always made a distinction between the more general films and those that will have a beter home in the local arthouse. Usually these serious film films are so full of themselves that the categorization is a diss in and of itself. There are the exceptions, of course, and Two Lovers is one of them.
Set in present day Brighton Beach (Brooklyn) New York, Two Lovers is the story of Leonard Kraditor (Joaquin Phoenix) the son of a prosperous dry cleaner (parental units Moni Monoshov and Isabella Rossellini). When we first meet Leonard, he is down in the dumps post a broken engagement to the one-time love of his life.
Here we will pause to explain the one thing that may not be clear to the general audience. Leonard is Jewish. Before marriage those of us who are 'members of the tribe' are tested for a genetic malady called Taysachs disease. If both sides of the couple are predisposed, as is the case here, it means disaster for any children. In Leonard's case a double positive means a long stay in miserable-ville. His parents, approaching retirement and looking to sell the business find a buyer who, and this is just dumb luck, has an available daughter named Sandra (Vinessa Shaw). Parental fix-ups. You gotta love 'em.
Leonard, on the other hand, isn't thinking about love when he hears an argument in the hall outside the apartment he shares with his parents. There in the hall is new neighbor Michelle Rausch (Gwyneth Paltrow), the kind of shiksa (non-MOT femme) we nice Jewish boys dream of -- gorgeous and friendly and accessible and definitely some person outside of the usual ideal target for a mate. That's also why America is such a great country; intermarriage brings fresh into the bloodline. Michelle isn't necessarily looking for an alternative to the married man she is already deeply involved with. What she is looking for is a BFF, which Leonard unwittingly becomes. He is torn between a subtle tribal attraction to Sandra and the sheer lust for the forbidden fruit. She is looking for another man to help evaluate whether or not her love choice is really going to leave his wife, as he has promised.
Oh that poor son of a gun.
The mark of a really fine arthouse target and its acompanying realy fine acting is this: you can empathize with the story even if it it is way out of your cultural milieu and b) that when an audience member (yours Cranky) plants to watch name stars work and that star's performance totally obliterates the names. --- we don't sit in our seat thinking "Gwyneth Paltrow is doing a good job." or "Gee, Phoenix doesn't look like that loon in Australia..."
The story of Two Lovers is one which is dead on perfect for the arthouse. That it is toplined by star names may help bring in a wider adult audience. It is not a tossaway dateflick but it is a pretty good film.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Two Lovers, he would have paid . . .
Two Lovers is a dry film but for those who aver the usual slam bang stuff in the multiplex, it is a worthwhile sit. That's a really backwards way of saying that mom would like it, but she would <g>
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