Thursday, July 16, 2009

Two Lovers

Leonard Kraditor (Joaquin Phoenix) is a burned-out and occasionally suicidal young man. He lives with his Jewish parents after his fiancée left him, helping out at their Brooklyn dry cleaners, and on occasion, practices at amateur photography. In quick succession, he meets two women: Sarah (Vinessa Shaw), the daughter of his parents' business associates -- she's frank, direct, sensual, Jewish like Leonard, and the girl his parents are pushing him toward -- and, his neighbor, Michelle (Gwyneth Paltrow) -- mercurial, fun, blonde, and another lost soul. Michelle is in love with a married man and cries on Leonard's shoulder; Sarah wants to save him. We watch his journey as he bounces between the two women, and the two lives they portend.

This is Joaquin Phoenix's last movie to date, completed as he announced he was quitting the film business to become a rap star. Whether or not we see him again, Two Lovers is a fine send-off. It's moving and interesting, and his portrayal of Leonard, caught between two worlds in several different ways, is quite compelling. Frankly, my take on his whole characterization -- and this is based on no fact at all -- is that we're seeing Joaquin Phoenix trying to figure out his own life, which way to plunge. That very idea did not hurt his characterization at all.

The women, Vinessa Shaw and Gwyneth Paltrow, also do a good job of showing us two distinctly different women, both with their own issues.

The movie is dark and a bit slow, but I don't think those are bad things. My only complaint is that the ending didn't seem quite real to me. But see it, and judge for yourself.

Thumb's up.


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