Thursday, August 21, 2014

“Love Is Strange”– Movie Review



This week, I attended a New York Times Film Club screening of “Love Is Strange”, starring John Lithgow, Alfred Molina and Marisa Tomei.


When a gay couple is forced to give up their longtime home, they wind up temporarily staying in separate locations – but will the friends and family putting them up lose patience before the couple is able to find a new place to live?


After nearly 40 years together, George and Ben (Molina and Lithgow) are finally going to get married in their home of New York City.  While their friends and family are positively ecstatic for them, not everyone is quite as pleased about their nuptials.  George, a music teacher at a Catholic school, is fired from his job once the diocese learns of his union.  With Ben on a small pension, the pair immediately realize that they can no longer afford their current living quarters; as a result, they will have to sell their co-op apartment and rent a smaller, cheaper space. 

But with a sale of their co-op imminent and in search of a new rental apartment as George remains unemployed, the two are in desperate need of a place to stay temporarily until they can get situated.   Unfortunately, no one they know has a place that’s big enough to accommodate the both of them; they will have to split up for the time being.  Ben winds up staying with family – nephew Elliot and his wife Kate (Darren E. Burrows and Tomei) while George rooms with a younger gay couple who are neighbors. 

Before too long, both Ben and George realize that their current arrangements are not working out terribly well.  Elliot and Kate’s teenage son Joey (Charlie Tahan) grows resentful of Ben’s various intrusions into his life.  Meanwhile, George is having a difficult time adapting to his surroundings since this much-younger couple likes to stay up late and party hard.  With the two spending way too much time apart, their need to find a new residence grows even more urgent.  But will they find an affordable new home in New York before they’ve completely ruined the relationships with their gracious hosts?


“Love Is Strange” is certainly an interesting title for this movie; it could just as easily have been “Life Is Strange”, given the weird twists and turns of various events here.  Perhaps “Love Is Strange” was chosen because the film is about various forms of love, beyond just the obvious.  Certainly, there is the romantic love of the motion picture’s newlyweds, but I would suggest that there is much more to it than merely that; there is the familial love that’s put to the test as well as the love for loyal friends when you are in need.  But there is another strange kind of love that I think the picture touches on:  the love of New York City.

There are a couple of reasons why I say this.  First of all, when Ben and George initially realize they can no longer afford their apartment, an opportunity arises for them to move out of New York City – an option which they reject right off.  These two have spent their entire life together in this city and they are not about to leave it this late in life.  Another reason why I believe the love for New York City is one of the key themes here is due to the way in which the movie is shot; New York is made to look so beautiful and so romantic at times that you would almost think you were watching a Woody Allen film. 

If I had any reservations about “Love Is Strange”, it would have to be with the way the camera is pointed during some of the musical scenes.  There are a couple of scenes where someone is supposed to be playing a piano, but their hands appear in the shot and it doesn’t look like they are actually playing; why the director felt it was necessary to include the actors’ hands in the shot will forever remain a mystery to me.  Also, while the script is generally quite good, there are occasional moments where a scene will fall a bit flat because of certain dramatic contrivances that might be difficult for some to overlook. 


Love Is Strange (2014) on IMDb


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