Friday, February 27, 2009


Two Lovers

Two Lovers This is supposedly to be Joaquin Phoenix's last role before he quits acting — he costars with Gwyneth Paltrow in director James Gray's new romantic drama "Two Lovers" (USA 2008, 110 min.). Unfortunately, both Phoenix and Paltrow fail to spark any chemistry to make the film either romantic or dramatic.

Leonard (Joaquin Phoenix) lives at home with his parents in Brooklyn and helps their dry cleaning business. His parents tries to help him to recover from his recent breakup by setting him up with Sandra (Vinessa Shaw), the daughter of a businessman who is buying out his family's business. While Leonard seems willing to play along with this arrangement, he quickly falls for a neighbor Michelle (Gwyneth Paltrow), who is having a fair with a married man at work. On Christmas Eve, Leonard has to make a final decision about his triangle relationship.

I cannot figure out why Joaquin Phoenix and Gwyneth Paltrow are cast for these two protagonists. It's quite obvious that they don't look like a couple together, but both of them have to work hard to pretend on behalf of their characters. I feel their pain on the screen, because they have to behave wired according to the script, which make them appear to be awkward, unconvincing, and strange.

Soon after Sandra meets Leonard, she invites him to a dinner with her lover, the unfaithful cheating husband. Even Leonard has a crush on Sandra, he comes to this expensive restaurant anyway to have dinner with them. Just pretend that you were any of these three characters for a second, would you come to a dinner like this?

Joaquin Phoenix and Gwyneth Paltrow in TWO LOVERS, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

That being said, I very much enjoy the characters of Leonard's parents, terrifically played by Isabella Rossellini and Moni Moshonov.

This is perhaps the most unromantic film about romance. When Leonard checks out Sandra by peeking into her window from his apartment, it's creepy, not romantic. When they yell out at each other from their windows, it's annoying to the neighbors and the audience, still not romantic.

I am glad that the film has a conclusion for everyone so Leonard's neighbors don't have to suffer any more, nor these characters.

"Two Lovers" opens on Friday, February 27, 2009 at Landmark's the Embarcadero Center Cinema in San Francisco and the Shattuck Cinemas in Berkeley.

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