Thursday, July 30, 2009

TWO LOVERS (now playing at home where you'd be ecstatic to have even ONE lover)

The enigma of why--when given the choice of a lover who's a normal human being or one who's mentally unstable--we often choose the really screwed-up one, is explored in Two Lovers, a romantic drama from director James Gray. Simply put, the people we choose to inhabit our lives are a reflection of our own state of being.

When we meet Leonard Kraditor, (Joaquin Phoenix) he has just jumped into the bay near his Brighton Beach Brooklyn home. Leonard, who works in his father's dry cleaning business, is bi-polar and has tried to do himself in before. Having second thoughts, he rises to the surface and is rescued by some good Samaritans.

Things look up for Lenny from there as first he meets Sandra, (Vinessa Shaw) the daughter of his dad's potential business partner. Sandra is attractive and sweet natured. She goes for Leonard, and soon considers him to be her boyfriend. Both families are pleased, as this will be good for business. Then Leonard discovers Michelle, (Gwyneth Paltrow) his quirky neighbor, who wants to be friends. Michelle is the prototypical lost soul. She ingests a lot of "E." She is a user--not only of drugs--but of people. She's a kept woman, her apartment paid for by Ronald, (Elias Koteas) the married attorney with whom she's having an ongoing relationship. Ronald's not much to look at, but he gets better looking every time her rent comes due.

Leonard goes out clubbing with Michelle and some of her friends. He is smitten by this wild girl. WHY? Because he's a glutton for PUNISHMENT. He wants someone to lead him on--to use him for their own sick reasons, then kick him to the gutter so that he feels like a royal piece of DOG SH*T. YEAH...IT HURTS SO GOOD! Uh...don't let me get carried away. But male or female, you know you've been there.

Leonard keeps the balancing act with Sandra and Michelle going--until the stakes are raised when Michelle tells him she's leaving Ronald and skipping off to San Francisco. Michelle acknowledges that she's screwed-up. Lenny talks her into letting him come along, saying he's just as screwed-up as she is, and thus able to understand her. Then they have sex, standing upright against a wall (sure...they make it look so EASY!) Later, the moment of truth arrives, with Leonard waiting patiently for Michelle to show up for their intended getaway.

Joaquin Phoenix is convincing as a damaged but playfully good natured guy--a trait that, above all else, can help to save him from himself. And Paltrow is a totally believable space case.

As I've mentioned before, a terrific music score--or even a montage of scenes with a great piece of music underneath--carries a lot of weight with me in the final assessment of a film. In Two Lovers, it's Henry Mancini's elegant "Lujon" (which was given lyrics and re-titled "Slow Hot Wind" when Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66 recorded it.) It's a dreamy piece of music that carries Leonard through the city and into his "friendly" dinner date with Michelle and Ronald.

When I was growing up, most people seemed NORMAL--now, whomever you run into is likely as not to be playing with less than a full deck. (How and why this has come about is fodder for a different discussion.) Two Lovers is an engrossing character study of some of the "functional dysfunctional" in our society of the 21st century.

In the end: (to paraphrase the Rolling Stones) You can't always get what you want...but sometimes, you get what you need.


  1. I just rented this, being drawn by previews...I felt like doing drugs when it was all over with...but had a White Russian instead...

  2. Teri,
    Does that mean you liked it? P.S. Don't see "The Ugly Truth" yet--My review on the way.

  3. I will have to rent this, it sounds pretty good and true to the word of our screwed up world. What is your opinion on a man who takes on 2 lovers or possibly more? Or a woman who takes on 2 lovers? Could be 2 boyfriends or 1 husband and a boyfriend. Same goes for the man could be a wife and a lover, or just 2 girlfriends. What makes most normally sane people risk their life and reputation for a person who is going to lead them into a life of hell or just keep them on a ROLLERCOASTER :)ride that keeps constant pain going?

  4. Yes, I can see how my comment might have been construed to read I liked it...just left me a bit too drained, enough drama like that with the girls i work with and I didn't need it to continue into the evenings movie I guess.

  5. CINDY,
    In regards to your first question, I say live and let live--and I try not to judge anyone else too harshly (unless they've wronged ME! LOL) As far as the rollercoaster ride, I think that many of us are actually ADDICTED to pain--or more accurately,the adrenaline rush we get from being in an ongoing state of ANXIETY...that's where the term "drama queen" comes from (should also say "drama king" so as not to be sexist). If these people can't find enough drama in their daily lives, they will stir things up in various ways to create more of it. I am quite familiar with these types because they've been popping in and out of my life, I just strive for peace and tranquility.

    Speaking of DRAMA, sounds like some of the gals you work with might fit my definition? I'm funny that way about movies...even though I'm an easy-going type, I can enjoy an intense drama sometimes because it takes me "out of myself," and when it's over, I'm happy to be just me and not the people in the movie!
    What's your favorite genre of film?

  6. Adrenaline rush, I think that is the key! Sorry I kind of got off of the subject of the movie. Good write up, I will be renting it:)

  7. You might want to consider becoming a counselor, you have an excellent way with words!

  8. CINDY,
    Funny you should say that...I've done some counseling in the past (on a volunteer basis).

  9. CINDY,
    Alright then...just lie down on this couch over here...

  10. My favorite genre? (in that little house on wheels and no TV? Thx for stopping by and leaving the smiley comment) well...look at my favorite movies and actors/esses--Sleeper, Bennie and Joon, Harold and Maude, Out of Africa, Rocky Horror, Tender Mercies, The Horse Whisperer, Little Shop of Horrors, The Little Mermaid...all situations in a way that I could imagine myself (well, maybe not the last one).

    I don't really like watching movies where I wouldn't want to live next door to the people in the film, nor do I watch war movies, even if friends tell me how meaningful and though-provoking they are, just too sad to be in that reality for me.

    I have been renting more movies lately and should keep a log as many to me are forgetful...but might be someone elses cuppa...

  11. TERI,
    You seem to like some things that are a little offbeat. Me too. Harold and Maude--good. And I have Out of Africa in my archives. I do like a good romantic comedy, though the hit and miss factor with those is pretty high. I seem to always be drawn (for better or for worse) to whatever Bill Murray, Adam Sandler, Sandra Bullock, and Andie MacDowell are in.

  12. just finished watching Elegy...ok, might be because I am 57, but this was a fun, meaningful and thoughprovoking meant something to me...

  13. damn, I just read that the changed the ending from the Philip Roth "The Dying Animal" know, it did seem a bit of a contrived snding but I still gave it a thumbs up...oh, yeah, Bonfire of the Vanities, there's another one.

  14. TERI,
    There was something that seemed contrived about the ending of that, but I was quite enjoying it up to that point. And Ben Kingsley is still one of the finest actors around.