Love Is Strange

John Lithgow and Alfred Molina in "Love Is Strange."

John Lithgow and Alfred Molina in “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.




About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on August 26, 2014, in New and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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