Love Is Strange

Love Is Strange photo starrating-4stars.jpgI have a confession. Once I saw the title, I was truly hoping that Love is Strange would feature John Lithgow and Alfred Molina doing a cover version of Mickey & Sylvia’s classic ditty. Alas, I was to be disappointed. No such luck.

After nearly 40 years together, Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) have decided to get married. As a result of this act, George loses his job as a music teacher at a Catholic school. No longer able to afford the rent on their Manhattan residence, the two scramble to find living arrangements. George still receives some income from the music lessons he provides locally. In order to stay close to his students, George sleeps on the couch in the small apartment of their sympathetic neighbors. Ted (Cheyenne Jackson) and Roberto (Manny Perez) are two cops. Ben on the other hand stays in Brooklyn with his nephew Elliot (Darren Burrows), his wife Kate (Marisa Tomei) and their teenage son Joey (Charlie Tahan). Their distant residences gives way to a unique set of issues with which each man must deal.

Love is Strange highlights a sterling ensemble cast. Alfred Molina and John Lithgow are extraordinarily good. Through the construct of Ben and George’s situational living development, drama from their everyday lives is extracted. George likes classical music and reading books. His desires don’t quite mesh with the hip party loving atmosphere of his hosts. There is an amusing scene of party revelers dancing to bass heavy music filmed in close-ups. I was certain these people were in a club only to have the camera pull back to reveal them just hanging out in a tiny apartment. Meanwhile struggling writer Kate, the wife of Ben’s nephew, politely listens to Ben’s ramblings while trying to finish her novel. Marisa Tomei gives an exquisitely sophisticated performance that showcases the various sacrifices being made by the family.

American director Ira Sachs’ work is clearly a movie made for devotees of reflective film and not mainstream box office. Sachs also co-produced and writes this account of disparate relationships. The fabricated arrangement gives way to some admittedly contrived situations manufactured in the interest of extracting a reaction. Alfred Molina and John Lithgow are extraordinarily good as the displaced couple. They lend a gravity to their characters that raise this chronicle to a higher level. Despite the narrative’s handling of the hot button topic of same sex marriage, the real story exploits genuine emotion as it deals with the many-sided personalities in an extended family. This is a subtle production that has universal appeal. Whether they’re singing at a piano to guests at a party or reflecting on what has become of their lives in separate bunk beds, Molina and Lithgow give nuanced performances. Yet the script accomplishes so much more. Love is Strange is a well written drama that beautifully handles the observational insights of a family tree and the way a simple crisis affects its many branches.

08-31-14

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20 Responses to “Love Is Strange”

  1. Not familiar with this but it sounds beautiful and I love John Lithgow! Will havr to add to my list. 🙂

  2. The problem I had with this movie was that it felt like there were so many other subplots tacked on, that it nearly takes away from what Lithgow and Molina create so beautifully together. Good review Mark.

  3. What an intriguing premise!
    No doubt it will never be shown (in English) in my part of th world!
    http://bradscribe.wordpress.com/2014/08/29/moonage-daydream/

  4. Not a big John Lithgow fan, but this does sound interesting. I also need to look up that song in the title. You seem to really love it, and somehow I’ve never heard of it.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    • Lithgow is merely a small part of a large ensemble cast. Many actors to enjoy here.

      The song comes back every now and then. I remember it was included on the Dirty Dancing soundtrack which sold 11 million copies in the U.S. It’s currently being used in a TV commercial for Nationwide Insurance.

  5. Kind of wishing this film opened here this weekend. At least that way I would have something to get excited about in terms of film openings! Haha. I suppose ‘Land Ho’ is now out. I might give that a look. But I’ve been dying to see this one. John Lithgow is great, can’t wait to see him in this one. You’ve made it sound fantastic.

    • Ever since Guardians of the Galaxy came out, the slate of new releases has been slim pickings. Probably why this will mark the 3rd week in a row and 4th week total, that this admittedly great film has easily taken #1 with no opposition.

      Have you seen The Trip to Italy? I’d be seeing that this weekend if life wasn’t keeping me so busy.

      • No, I haven’t. I’m so looking forward to that one too. I’ve been keeping tabs on the indie theater release. They have a white board just on the inside of the box office and each week I go I’m paying attention to what’s on the slate. That title is on the docket two weeks from now. So, I guess that’s good. 🙂

        I’m still able to fill my time with other things I have missed, though, like ‘What If’ and ‘Magic in the Moonlight.’ I’m thinking Woody Allen’s movie is next.

      • I didn’t care for either of those although they’re not terrible – just underwhelming.

  6. Great movie with great performances. True to life story. I like movies like that. It was very believable. I also pretty much like Marissa Tomei in everything she does. She’s one of my faves. 4 stars.

    • Marisa Tomei is extraordinary in everything she does. When she’s given a great script, as she is here, she acts it to perfection. But even with lesser material, she elevates the story into something worthwhile.

  7. Sadly, Love is Strange slipped through the cracks for me when it was in theaters, but I’ve heard a lot of good things about it in addition to your positive review. The idea that these characters have been together for so long and that they’re forced to split after they get married seems heartbreaking. But from what you’re saying it seems like the movie isn’t heavy handed about mining drama from that, which I like. I like Marisa Tomei and I think she’s underrated, so I’m looking forward to checking this movie out at some point.

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