EchoMag.com Exclusive: Love Is Strange Movie Review
By Hans Pedersen – Sept. 5, 2014
This down-to-earth comedy, suffused with heart and spirit, tells the uplifting love story about finding enough space and time to share life together. With its golden-hued shots of New York City, Love Is Strange is like a sonnet about the Big Apple wrapped around the story of an aging couple.
From the celebratory opening moments of the film, Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) are tying the knot after 39 years, and we learn what an inspirational network of friends and family they have as a support system. Shortly thereafter, the two men have to rely on that support network.
George teaches at a Catholic school, and when his employer get word of his marriage to Ben, school leaders promptly insists that he resign. With New York City housing costs sky-high and George out of a job, the two wind up having to move in with friends and family.
Ben, who’s a painter, moves out to Brooklyn to stay with his nephew, Elliot (Darren Burrows), and wife, Kate (Marisa Tomei), along with their son, Joey (Charlie Tahan).
George, meantime, stays with neighbors Ted (Cheyenne Jackson) and Roberto (Manny Perez), who are a pair of young policemen who have an avid social life with friends hanging out regularly.
Ben tries to make himself at home while bunking with his nephew, yet finds it a challenge to stay out of Kate’s way in the Brooklyn apartment. Ultimately a watercolor Ben creates is a sticking point for Kate, and a source of comfort for Joey in the end.
Given the setup, you might expect a comedy of misunderstandings, but it’s not a British farce or a film filled with cheap laughs; instead, the comedy bubbles from naturalistic performances by the skilled cast.
Of this talented group of actors, each gets a chance to shine in this ensemble film, and the two veteran leads do an outstanding job of providing the story with its emotional base.
Lithgow first made waves playing a trans woman more than 30 years ago in the movie The World According to Garp (1982), which also starred Robin Williams. While there were lines played for laughs, Lithgow managed to instill a sense of authenticity and sensitivity into the character.
And Molina played a gay intellectual who kills his playwright lover (played by Gary Oldman) in the Stephen Frears movie Prick Up Your Ears back in 1987. So it’s the ultimate flashback treat to see these seasoned actors, with careers stretching back to the ‘80s, playing gay lovers who have been together for decades.
Ira Sachs, director of the stirring film Keep the Lights On, helms this production skillfully, with several moments played sensitively in heartbreaking fashion.
The film’s magic can be attributed, in part, to the bucolic melodies that waft thru gorgeous sunlit sequences. The characters are as enchanting as the locale, which, when combined produce emotional warmth that resonates well after the movie’s conclusion.
It’s such a beautiful story that, like life itself, it ends more abruptly than we might like.
Hans Pedersen is a freelance writer based in Phoenix.