Dr. Donna Copeland’s
This film artistically captures everyday life for many people living in an American urban setting, with all the stresses that might entail. That the two main characters are gay is not especially meaningful, in that I think the filmmakers wanted to show just that—their lives are in some sense unremarkable in relation to that of most of us. Ben (Lithgow) and George (Molina) become a happily married couple after a decades-long attachment. However, soon after, George is hit with a rude surprise, which has huge implications for their lives. It will entail each having to depend on the hospitality of friends until they can turn things around. Ben is retired after some type of work in a gallery, and now paints as a hobby. George is able to eke out a living teaching music in private lessons. Most of the film is about this period of time when they have to adjust to living apart and in other people’s homes. Just when the outlook takes a more optimistic turn, the film actually ends on a melancholy note, albeit with hope still evident.
The particular way director Ira Sachs (and co-writer with Mauricio Zacharias) has composed the film, it reminds me of a piece of art in itself—as a painting, as a musical piece, as an interesting short story. Emotions are displayed tenderly and subtly, easily identifiable to viewers. The music is soft and melodic (except during parties or in bars), capturing the mood in each scene. Christos Vouvouris, the cinematographer, has dozens of shots artistically composed, a most striking one being a character sobbing quietly on a stairway landing next to a window dimly reflecting the leaves outdoors. Lithgow, Molina, and Tomei use their impressive acting skills to bring their characters to life with all their assets and flaws.
Love is Strange is difficult to watch at times for various reasons, including its accuracy in capturing the difficulties and challenges facing all the main characters who have either been uprooted or are hosting people who have been. The movie draws us in, and we begin to experience their anxieties and discomfort about an uncertain future.
Love is many things--strange, exhilarating, and sometimes, hard.
By Donna R. Copeland
John Lithgow Alfred Molina Marisa Tomei Charlie Tahan
Love is Strange
Love is Strange is one of the most honest and reality based dramas of 2014. An early summer release with mounting buzz that carried over into Independent Spirit Award nominations for the two male performances and best feature. Love is Strange is a unique look at a very specific situation and how it affects the lives of those around them. John Lithgow (Interstellar) and Alfred Molina (The Da Vinci Code) deliver some of the best work in their distinguished careers. However, I was really impressed with the performance from Tomei (In the Bedroom), who plays a character working on so many different emotional levels. The director's choice of using natural lighting for most of the film and his juxtaposition of classic music on a very modern story was like mixing two things that shouldn’t go together but work beautifully.
After being together for 39 years, Ben (Lithgow) and George (Molina) finally tie the knot and look forward to their remaining days together. Due to the church’s view on same sex marriage, George is relieved of his long standing position as choir director at a local prep school. Ben’s artwork doesn’t sustain their income, therefore the newlyweds are forced to temporarily live apart. Ben moves in with his nephew Elliot (Darren E. Burrows) and his family, including wife Kate (Tomei) and their teenage son Joey (Tahan). Their small apartment gets very crowded. George, on the other hand, moves down a floor to bunk with a male couple they are friends with.
Writer/director Ira Sachs understands the importance of small nuances and perhaps Tomei does as well, Love is Strange is presented similarly to In the Bedroom, which garnered Tomei an Oscar nomination back in 2001. The narrative following Ben and the family is far more interesting than what George is dealing with, and Sachs understands this, allowing Lithgow to take the lead in screen time. Particularly the relationship between Kate, her son Joey and Ben is fascinating; watching as everyone reacts to the spoken concept of “when you live with people you get to know them more than you would like”.
Sachs expresses so much of the film's mood through visuals and framing the narrative. The musical component, which exists mostly for George’s character, is carried through the entire film and used extraordinarily in allowing the character's thoughts from previous scenes to be reiterated, especially in the final frame. The only element of the film I didn’t really buy into was the circumstances of how the two are seperated; however, overlooking that detail and being able to explore this unique predicament makes for a fascinating film that really gets to study family dynamics in so many stages of life.
Final Thought – One of the most understanding and fascinating films of the year where human nature is concerned.
By: Dustin Chase