This weekend in my movie class, we saw a bonus screening of the drama, “The Face Of Love”, starring Annette Bening, Ed Harris and Robin Williams.
When a widow starts dating her late husband’s doppelgänger, will he break-up with her when he learns the reason for her interest in him, or can they somehow work through it together?
Five years after her husband’s accidental drowning death during their Mexico vacation, Nikki (Bening) remains in mourning. Barely able to move forward in her life, she’s of no mind to pursue any romantic relationships until running into Tom (Harris), an art teacher who happens to be the spitting-image of Garrett, Nikki’s late husband. After flirting with him for a while, she finally coaxes Tom to ask her out to dinner; they begin dating for a while and all appears well between them, except for the fact that Tom has no idea that Nikki is with him for no reason other than that he’s a double for Garrett.
Nikki and Tom’s happiness is much to the consternation of Roger (Williams), Nikki’s friend and neighbor. Like Nikki, Roger’s spouse died; although still in mourning to some degree, he seems to be in a bit better shape than Nikki because he is ready to move on with his life – in fact, he desperately wants to date Nikki himself, but she would prefer to maintain a more platonic relationship. Understandably, when Roger learns that Nikki is seeing someone else, jealousy trumps joy for his friend. Subsequently, when Roger sees Tom, he’s shocked by his resemblance to Garrett.
Searching to resume her life with Garrett through an unsuspecting Tom, Nikki suggests they take a vacation to Mexico – in fact, through no mere coincidence, they wind up staying at the exact same resort where Garrett died. In spite of the fact that Tom knows Nikki is a widow, he has learned little else about Garrett due to Nikki’s reticence. However, during their vacation, Tom begins to suspect that something is up when he becomes aware of some new information about Nikki’s past. When Tom confronts Nikki about this, will their relationship end or can they manage to get beyond it and stay together?
Vacillating between melancholia and magical thinking, neither the motion picture “The Face Of Love” nor its heroine Nikki appear to know the direction in which it wants to go. Does it want to be some kind of psychological thriller? A romantic drama? Is its theme “Love Triumphs Over All” or “Loss Can Be Overcome”? Maybe none of the above. Ultimately, I’m not sure exactly what this movie is supposed to be and perhaps that’s due in large part to its ending, which is supposed to be symbolic (I guess). The good news is that it’s only an hour and a half long.
Although Nikki is supposed to be the protagonist in “The Face Of Love”, she is hardly the most sympathetic character and thus rooting for her is difficult, to say the least. Nikki, Roger and Tom have all lost their spouse, in one way or another. Yet both Roger and Tom – and especially Tom – earn more compassion from the audience than Nikki, who is selfish, obsessed and, quite frankly, sick. If there’s anything you’re rooting for when it comes to Nikki, it’s hoping that she both seeks and obtains the professional help this woman so clearly and desperately needs. She seems to have no compunction about ruining the life of everyone around her, including her own grown daughter.
Director Arie Posin leaves no question that he certainly possesses the capabilities for telling a story both visually and verbally (he co-wrote the screenplay with Matthew McDuffie) – at least, at times, anyway. The foundation for “The Face Of Love” seems to be a little shaky part-way through the second act before collapsing altogether in the third act. Up until then, however, he has done a yeoman’s job of setting up what had the potential to be a really interesting story – if only he knew exactly which story it was that he wanted to tell.