Two Lovers (Magnolia Pictures, R)

film_two-lovers_sm.jpgWhether you view the film’s ending as hopeful or tragic, you can’t help but recognize the movie as the genius piece of filmmaking that it is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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You can take what you want from Two Lovers. On one hand, it’s a tale about making the right choice, finding happiness when and where you can, and following what appears to be your life’s path. Conversely, Two Lovers is also a tale of following your heart, of diving head-first into passion damn the consequences, of making decisions based on love and nothing else. Either way, there are consequences.

Whether you view the film’s ending as hopeful or tragic, you can’t help but recognize the movie as the genius piece of filmmaking that it is. From the very first scene to the very last, I was transfixed, in love with the movie every step of the way. Directed and co-written by James Gray, Two Lovers deals with emotions, not action. The characters—Leonard Kraditor (Joaquin Phoenix), Michelle Rausch (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Sandra Cohen (Vinessa Shaw)—are each mired in their own realities. We see them honestly, nakedly, each conveying feelings and yearnings by facial expressions and down to their very posture.

The story is this: Recently dumped by his fiancée, Leonard returns home to his parents’ (Isabella Rosselini, Moni Moshonov) New York apartment. Though supportive, Reuben (Moni Moshonov) and Ruth (Isabella Rossellini) veer to the meddling side, largely because Leonard’s heartbreak has led him to more than one suicide attempt. Despite their continued support, their son gives them very little details about his life, causing additional concern.

As the film begins, the Kraditors are looking to sell the family dry cleaning business—where Leonard has been working since his return home—to the Cohens. Through their professional dealings, Leonard meets their daughter Vinessa, who, although demure, makes no secret of her interest in Leonard; their parents, too, make gestures to ensure the two become a couple.

Within days of meeting Vinessa, Leonard is introduced to Michelle, a new tenant in his parents’ building. Their initial meeting is fraught with her drama…a sign of things to come, to be sure. The two strike up an instant and intimate friendship; though Leonard views his new friend with reverence and something resembling love, Michelle keeps him at arm’s length. Her relationship with Ronald, a married law partner at her place of employment, is on the rocks, and she depends on Leonard far more than she should.

Despite his secure job in dry cleaning, Leonard has creative urgings: he’s a photographer with a well-trained eye. Still, despite this interest, he never seems to take his gift seriously. When showing his work to Sandra, she asks why none of his photos have people in them. His asocial tendencies shine through his response: "People look at them," he tells her. "They don’t have to be in it, too."

Leonard and Sandra’s relationship is given time to grow before Michelle comes crashing back into his life, this time (of course) with even more drama. Still, this is so very clearly what Leonard craves; he falls into the role of confidant and caretaker with renewed vigor. But where will it lead him?

Phoenix is absolutely brilliant in this role. His face expertly conveys the emotional turbulence in which his character finds himself. We experience his heartbreak, longing, pathos and hope along with him; from the outset, we are vested in the character of Leonard; we root for him, we feel for him, we want him to realize his dreams. Paltrow, too, shines in the role of Michelle; both impetuous and troubled, she manages to earn our sympathies as well.

Finally, there’s the matter of the ending. As events quickly unfold, they feel perfectly natural. But are they the right events? Has Leonard chosen the right path for himself?

I honestly cannot say enough good things about Two Lovers. Go. See it. Let yourself be immersed in the world of dreams and the promise of a future. Two Lovers will make you analyze your own life…and then live it. | Laura Hamlett

About Laura Hamlett 467 Articles
Laura Hamlett is the Managing Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. In a past life, she was also a music publicist and band manager. Besides music, books, and other forms of popular culture, she's a fan of the psychology behind true crime and violent criminals. Ask her about mass murder...if you dare.

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