Two Lovers

Though Two Lovers is based on a Dostoyevsky story, director James Gray’s lack of interpretive distance from his subject, coupled with extreme overacting from lead actor Joaquin Phoenix, results in melodrama that sits up and begs to be farce. As Leonard, a jilted thirtysomething who has moved back in with his Brighton Beach Jewish parents (Isabella Rossellini and Moni Moshonov), Phoenix lays on the pimply-youth body language so thick, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him twitch at his underpants. This shambling mama’s boy quickly becomes irresistible to two luscious beauties from opposite ends of his comfort zone: the nice Jewish girl Sandra (Vinessa Shaw) and the non-Jewish Michelle (Gwyneth Paltrow), a neurotic tease who summons him to nocturnal rooftop summits about the uneven progress of her affair with a married man. What follows is a clumsy stab at Vertigo laced with bits of Marty. What you make of Leonard’s behavior at the end of Two Lovers may depend on whether you read It’s a Wonderful Life as the uplifting tale of a depressive redeemed from suicide or the tragedy of a man who gave up adventure for a domestic cocoon.

Categories: Movies