Saturday, September 27, 2014

Love Is Strange (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Love Is Strange

Ira Sachs (Keep the Lights On) hits upon familiar territory once more in "Love Is Strange", a character study of two older men who are just married, struggling and in love.

George (Alfred Molina) is a music teacher in a New York City catholic school while Ben (John Lithgow) is a painter with brief touches of fame. As a couple for forty years they decide to marry.

But all is not smooth.

Through Facebook, word gets out  among the school administration in regard to George's wedding and he is promptly fired.

Since the couple has lived just a bit beyond their means, they can't afford the nice apartment in the city and the two call a family conference.

While they have the support of their relatives, not one of them is all that thrilled to have them as roommates. Ben and George decide to split locations in order to keep the city life. The bohemian Ben takes up with his nephew Elliot (Darren Burrows) and his wife Kate (Marisa Tomei) while the more conservatively appearing but perhaps inwardly daring, George moves in with two gay cops (played by Manny Perez and Cheyenne Jackson)

Kate can't work on her novel because of Ben's vocal self doubts together with his large and somewhat slovenly appearance. Elliot is invariably preoccupied on the phone, taking on the form of something halfway between a skeleton and a ghost.

Kate is at her wit's end.

Across town, George doesn't fare much better, forever assaulted by disco music and a motley assortment of strangers.

The core of this film is the believable qualities and emotional chemistry between Lithgow and Molina. Lithgow's Ben is aloof, a tad passive and elitist, while Molina as George is a nervous teddy bear who frets over nuances and expenses. These two have indeed lived and loved each other, both apart and together.

With just a few bare touches of the hand, we can feel their seasons and grasp the texture of intimacies shared---be it by fire or along the rocks of an ocean.

While all of the actors have fine outings (Darren Burrows is both a non-entity and a threat, while Marisa Tomei is a chattering wreck) it is Charlie Tahan that shines as the shy but seething son Joey who is anarchistic and homophobic. Actor  Eric Tabach is a highlight too, as the aloof and arrogant Vlad, Joey's friend.

Lithgow's performance embodies a nostalgic and melancholy New York that still retains a hope to recapture times long gone by.

Ben's art, reminiscent of the Ashcan school and Andrew Wyeth, speak of a 1970s metropolis of diners and gay bars, which are now little more than a comet's reflection or the trace of Warhol's silver star.

When Ben falls down the stairs, overrun by the heaviness of metal and his own body, the city is seen in a void as the blankness of skyscrapers rush by.

The message of  "Love Is Strange" suggests that the intimacy of caring holds through any emotional famine as the heart and memory fuses to make a living memento: one part creating a cameo and the other, a steady compass.

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