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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Monday, July 13, 2015

Movie Review - Love Is Strange

Love Is Strange (2014)
Starring Alfred Molina, John Lithgow, Marisa Tomei, Darren Burrows, Charlie Tahan, and Cheyenne Jackson
Directed by Ira Sachs

Together for 39 years, longtime couple Ben and George (John Lithgow and Alfred Molina) decide to get married to solidify their commitment.  Unfortunately, this legally binding arrangement causes George to lose his job as a Catholic school choir director.  With Ben retired and George now unemployed, the couple find themselves unable to afford their New York City apartment.  So, after nearly four decades, Ben and George are forced to live separately for a bit until they can find an affordable home -- Ben moves in with his nephew Elliot (Darren Burrows), his wife Kate (Marisa Tomei), and their son Joey (Charlie Tahan), while George moves in with Ted (Cheyenne Jackson), a gay cop and longtime friend of the couple.

Love Is Strange works best in allowing the audience to feel the surprising amount of pain and sorrow Ben and George feel as they're pulled apart just when they should be joining closer together.  The sense of love that Molina and Lithgow bring to their characters' relationship is admittedly palpable, undeniably charming, and surprisingly captivating.  Unfortunately, the film itself can't claim to be as beguiling as the film's central couple.

Director and co-writer Ira Sachs creates a great, lived-in relationship with Ben and George, but he surrounds them with storylines that don't really go anywhere and characters that lack the depth of the main couple.  He also makes an interesting decision to not spell everything out -- meaning that Sachs will simply start up new scenes days or weeks or months after the last scene without giving us any sense of things that came before.  We must pick up the missing pieces as moments progress.  This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but in a movie that seemingly prides itself on simplicity it's an interesting technique that doesn't always pan out in the film's favor.

Love Is Strange is slowly paced -- I've never heard more complete Chopin piano pieces in a film before -- and it does many things well, but it unfortunately never fully comes together.  Superfluous characters and plot lines bog down an otherwise pleasing look at an aging couple's love for one another.

The RyMickey Rating:  C+

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