Friday, February 6, 2015

Love isn’t all that strange, when you think about it…


The beauty of a film like ‘Love is Strange’ is that it says so much without appearing to say a whole lot.  I know that that sounds, off the bat, like a criticism of sorts, but it really isn’t.  This is a film that rests very easy, never forcing any of the film’s narrative themes, but gently coaxing from them so much depth that we don’t even realize what it is we are taking in, but we are taking it in.  While our focal point is centered on the unfair situation that newlyweds Ben and George find themselves in, so many little, subtle things are floating around the surface and popping up for our interpretation and contemplation.

Prejudice, aging, respect, infidelity, economy, grief; all of these things are explored in subtle ways, sometimes in just a passing comment, but are fully represented when considering the context.



‘Love is Strange’ (which by the way is a confused film title, since it says nothing about the film itself), tells the story of same-sex partners Ben and George, and opens on the day of their marriage.  They’ve been together for a VERY long time, but are finally able to legalize their bond.  Unfortunately, legalizing their love has brought George to an uncomfortable spot with his employer, a Christian School that has strict rules about the image of their teachers (he’s a piano teacher).  Despite knowing full well about George’s relationship with Ben, having a wedding placed the school in a position where they felt the need to let him go.  Now, this happy couple finds themselves financially strapped, and with the rising cost of housing in New York they are at a loss for where to go.  They settle on the decision to live separately, Ben moving in with his nephew and his family, and George sleeping on a friend’s couch.  Separation is bad enough, but living with other people poses its own set of hardships.

A story like ‘Love is Strange’ moves briskly, and with no real seeming purpose, but it is in all the little details that the purpose of the film is firmly implanted.  In the way that Ben’s family tends to take him for granted, or the way that Ben feels a need to defend his nephew’s son, or the way that George subtly deflects temptation, or the way that Ben and George nonchalantly discuss previous indiscretions; all of this background noise (because, it’s never given center attention) completes a picture of life and love in all of its stages.

And the ensemble is just beautiful, with Lithgow and Molina turning into such rich and honest portraits of these men, and the rest of the cast, most notably Marisa Tomei (one of the greatest character actresses working today, or ever) rounding out a very natural and impressionable ensemble.



Some have balked that the lack of central focus on Ben and George TOGETHER has dampened the impact of the film, especially the finale, but for me it was the way the focus was spread throughout the entire family that this film’s finale found its sharpest impact.  The film, by spreading the focus, delivers a real insightful look at the way the elderly are regarded and nearly disregarded in the same breath, and the way that respect can be lost without reason and then slowly developed, almost unbeknownst to us and not until it’s too late.  Yes, this is about an unwavering love between two people (and yes, this deals with prejudice and the debilitating economy) but the ending note is the lasting impression made by the development of ‘family’ and what that really means.

I'd give this an A-.  It really is a gem of a film, and one that I'm glad has reached such a wide audience, considering the subject matter and ensemble.

8 comments:

  1. Great review! I really enjoyed this film too, though Selfishly I wish it would've ended about 10 minutes sooner.

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    1. I was going to mention the ending, which to me felt a tad rushed (like, WTF), but after contemplating it, my qualms with the way it was handled actually dissipated. Like, I felt it, especially the elongated shot in the stairwell...like, I felt that pretty hard upon reflection.

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  2. I'm glad you reviewed this one. My husband and I watched a trailer the other day and agreed we want to see this -- it looks like something we'd both enjoy. And Lithgow, Molina, and Tomei are such terrific actors.

    Excellent review!

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    1. Thanks Irene! This really is a special little film, and Tomei, Lithgow and Molina are top notch here!

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  3. I have seen this film to rent and I was thinking of renting it the next week. I think, based on what you write, I will. Besides, I love these actors

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    1. Oh, I hope you do! I can't wait to hear what you think of it.

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  4. This was a gem, indeed. I'm so glad the Indie Spirits didn't overlook it. There are too many great films and performances for it to squeeze in at the CinSpecs, but I really liked it as well.

    Random: Are you putting Maps to the Stars in 2015? It doesn't actually release in the U.S. until later this month, and it wasn't eligible at the current Oscars. I'm probably putting it in '15, but I wanted to see if it was competing at the Fistis in '14.

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    1. Right now, as delightful and lovely as this is, it'll be lucky to place in my top twelve anywhere, sadly.

      And I'm placing Maps in 2015...this year is already so fricking tight!

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