ANNETTE BENNING ED HARRIS ROBIN WILLIAMS
the face of love
What makes an adult romance film slide into the cheesy romance novel realm? Is there really a fine line? The Face of Love asks that question without wanting to. It’s a modern, mature romance with an unsettling twist; yet that twist is both fascinating and, at the same time, ruins the entire film because everything becomes reliant on its unusual nature. Oscar nominees Benning and Harris deliver really good performances here, but it’s the writing that has them doing rather silly things, especially near the end. Remember how Message in a Bottle used the secret of finding the note to drive the plot and how she hid it from him until the truth finally came out? The Face of Love does a similar dance but doesn’t have much else to go on without it.
Five years after the death of her husband Garrett, Nikki (Benning) is slowly learning to let go. She finally ventures back into the Los Angeles Museum of Art, where she and her husband spent so much time. She is startled, however, when she sees a man identical to her husband. She pursues this man, who she learns is named Tom (Harris) and, hiding the fact that he could be her husband’s twin, they begin to see each other and fall in love. She begins to feel guilty that she is only having this relationship to fill the loss in her life, so she hides Tom from her daughter, neighbor and friends to save herself the embarrassment, which creates tension and suspicion.
“We all have a double somewhere in the world,” one of the characters says. This film takes that notion and runs with it. There are some great moments between Benning and Harris in the beginning, the way he sees that she is completely full of crap as she flirts with him and the way he doesn’t care, excited that someone has taken an interest in him. “I could take a bath in how you look at me,” he says to her. Cue the cheesy music now! Speaking of music, the film is scored all wrong; the moments of tension, flashback and others are never at the right pitch, and it’s the wrong sound to create the wrong emotion in the viewer.
Sadly, the closer to the secret being explosively revealed, which creates such a dramatic reaction with the daughter that one would think it was a Friday cliffhanger on a soap opera, you remind yourself that no one would act like that and then remember you are watching a movie--a silly movie. The only audiences that are likely to enjoy the entire film are desperate housewives who also have a night table full of cheap romance novels. Benning plays one of her most emotionally pathetic characters and poor Williams is barely given anything to do. There was just too many unbelievable moments for this film to be taken seriously, and none of them were the fact that two men could look exactly alike.
Final Thought – The face of a cheesy romance novel.
By: Dustin Chase