Friday, August 29, 2014
Love Is Strange
The first big change in the story is that 71-year-old painter Ben (John Lithgow) and musician George (Alfred Molina) finally get married after being together for 39 years. However, an immediate consequence of their marriage is for George to lose his teaching job at his church. Unable to afford their mortgage payment for their New York City apartment, they decide to sell it and seek for temporary housing arrangement.
Ben's supportive nephew Elliot (Darren E. Burroughs) and his wife Kate (Marisa Tomei) open their home and let Ben sleep under their son Joey's (Charlie Tahan) bunk bed. Meanwhile, George crashes on the couch of his party-loving gay cop neighbor Roberto (Manny Perez) and Ted (Cheyenne Jackson).
Not only Ben and George must cope with the separation anxiety, but also they have to seek delicate balance while interacting with their hosts and to figure out a way to survive in the city together.
In the film, the director Ira Sachs tells his story without underlining the word "gay" when portraying his protagonists and he treats them as simply who they are, an old married couple like any married straight couple. That's a remarkable progress for portraying gays in cinema. He gives the audience plenty time to observe the subtle exchanges among his characters and never bother to elaborate more details than the viewers can witness. Together with the excellent performance by Alfred Molina and John Lithgow, he beautifully crafts a heartfelt drama that focusing on a gay couple who lost their six pack abs long time ago.
However, that doesn't excuse the implausible plot setup. It's hard to believe that George and Ben must sell the apartment after George lost his teaching job at a church. George must have been paid very well for teaching children singing. It's even harder to comprehend that they go ahead with that selling decision which makes no economic sense and results their separation. But without that setup, the entire film has to go back to the drawing board. A few supporting characters, such as Ben's nephew Elliot and Joey's friend Vlad (Eric Tabach), are also clearly underdeveloped.
The cinematography by Christos Voudouris (the director of photography for "Before Midnight") is terrific in the film. One of the marvelous long take of Joey at a stairwell is absolutely mesmerizing and deeply moving, and the fantastic closing shot of the film ends the film's poignant undertone with a welcoming uplifting note.