Love Is Strange
“Love Is Strange” could have been a very good movie. In fact, I am still quite surprised that it was not. It has an interesting premise and very engaging main characters played by John Lithgow and Alfred Molina, with the, always fine, Marisa Tomei in a supporting role.
Without giving away any spoilers, I will simply say that going into its third act the story takes a very sharp left turn, flies off the rails, crashes and burns. Simply put, “Love Is Strange” suffers from a time worn malady, of both stage and screen, called “trouble in the third act.” In other words, there was a good idea here, which was well sustained for the first and second acts. Writer/director, Ira Sachs, seems to have not known how to resolve his story. As a result, he has come up with something completely out of left field, for the third act, that conveniently lets him off the hook in regard dealing to his characters’ situation. In fact, for a moment, I honestly thought that there was a technical glitch and that the particular copy of the movie that I was watching was missing a scene or two. Part of me is still hoping that this is the case, but I do not think it is.
In “Love Is Strange,” Lithgow and Molina play an older gay couple, Ben and George, respectively, who, after being together for about forty years, have just married. Soon after, due to economic circumstances, they have to sell their cherished Manhattan apartment and each has to go live elsewhere. They hope that their separation will only be temporary. Ben moves in with his nephew and family, while George goes to live with friends. Lithgow and Molina are great. They create a real feeling that they have been together for many years. The film’s scenes feel authentic. All of the characters are genuine and express emotions that are real and honest.
The premise of “Love Is Strange” is a good one and one that has been used, quite successfully, in the past. Two examples of which I am thinking are “Make Way for Tomorrow” (1937) and “Harry and Tonto” (1974), the latter being a personal favorite of mine. These films deal with elderly people whose lives are disrupted when they lose their homes. Incidentally, if you have not seen “Make Way for Tomorrow” or “Harry and Tonto,” I highly recommend renting them. What I appreciate about these two films is that they stay true to the trajectory of their characters’ journeys and are ultimately quite rewarding. It is just incomprehensible to me that “Love Is Strange” does not do this. It is really too bad because it starts out with a good story, is well acted and has great characters. Now, if they could just re-write and re-shoot that third act.