Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Two Lovers - Can I choose All of the Above

To love or be loved? Leonard Kraditor (Joaquin Phoenix) becomes infatuated with his unstable neighbor Michelle (Gwyneth Paltrow) just as Sandra (Vinessa Shaw), the daughter of the dry cleaning mogul who is acquiring his parent's business, is falling for him. Michelle drives Leonard nuts, pulling him close - then turning him into a confidant - without benefits. Actually, Leonard is already nuts, or, at least a manic depressive. Leonard opens the film with a plunge off a Sheepshead Bay pier, a feeble suicide attempt that atually establishes Leonard's will to live, and possibly reveals a secret desire to join the Polar Bear Club - a family favorite. Leonard is living with his parents, working as a gofer in their dry cleaning business, recovering from a broken engagement, taking his medication and working hard at staying normal. The attractive Sandra offers unconditional love, plus a support system, a shot at a real job in the business that will soon belong to her father - a chance to lead the good life in a conventional way. Michelle might as well have a"Dangerous Curves" sign hung around her neck. She's taking pills on more than a recreational basis. She's fully invested in a relationship with Ronald Blatt, a married lawyer who rents her an apartment, takes her to the opera, buys her brandy alexanders and promises to leave his wife. When Michelle seems ready to give up on Blatt, Leonard finally has his chance.

Michelle or Sandra? Leonard is driven by chemistry and circumstance, with absolutely no visible, conscious decision-making process until he's reduced to accepting his single remaining choice or abandoning life. Although Michelle and Blatt also face the love or be loved dilemma, Two Lovers doesn't shed much new light on this theme. It does create a compelling atmosphere and combine a detailed character study with a resolution that feels tidy but not false. Several elements stood out. The apartment Ronald shares with his parents seems like a place every New Yorker has visited, particularly when Sandra begins to seduce Ronald in the hallway with the family photo gallery staring on from the background. The sound is unusual, often exceptional - the thud inside Leonard's head as he trods down the pier to his opening plunge is reminiscent of the prisoners stomping as Phoenix waits offstage at the beginning of Walk The Line. The wind whistles a constant warning as Ronald tries to connect with Michelle in their rooftop hideaway. The supporting roles were well cast and well played without exception. Isabella Rossellini had one extraordinary moment as Leonard's mother, radiating conflicting emotions as he sneaks off on a perilous journey.

If you are a manic depressive living in your parent's apartment, you must see this film immediately and see it often. Let's face it, the flic is a "how-to" manual, where else will you get pointers on how to end up choosing between lovers like Paltrow and Shaw. If you are a middle-aged, married lawyer trying to start a sleezy affair with a young assistant at your own firm, you must see this movie immediately -another how to tip - watch Paltrow's face in the opera scene, As Good As News is not sure if that was acting. For all others, the film is worth renting and might be worth seeing in the theater if you need something to do on a date.

No comments: