Front Row at the Movies
"Love Is Strange" Is Not So Strange
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Depending on where you stand on Marriage Equality, you may or may not find the title of "Love Is Strange" a misnomer.
Here we have Ben and George, two gay guys (played by non-gay John Lithgow and Alfred Molina), who after 39 years together get married. About time, you say? Or not.
The ‘not" drives the plot. You see, George is a music teacher at a Catholic school and when word reaches the archdiocese about his legalizing his relationship, he is summarily fired.
This puts a financial strain on the relationship. Unable to afford their New York apartment, Ben and George must move in with others -- separating them. Ben is forced to share quarters with his nephew, his novelist wife, and teenage son (Darren Burrows, Marisa Tomei, and Charlie Tahan), while George bunks with two sympathetic cops (Manny Perez and Cheyenne Jackson).
Despite these hardships, this is at its heart an aging love story. "It’s love at the end of your life," says writer-director Ira Sachs, who was inspired by the long relationship between his great-uncle and his partner. "There’s something imperfect and beautiful and I wanted to make a film about that. It’s a classic story of a couple facing a crisis and how they deal with it. It’s a sweet film but the characters have edge, they’re real."
Sachs calls it poignant. Audiences at the Sundance Film Festival considered it a tearjerker. It’s currently making moviegoers pull out their handkerchiefs at the Tropic Cinema.
Lithgow and Molina admit that, at their age, they don’t get romantic leading roles anymore -- "whether gay or straight."
While having been married to his wife Mary for more than 30 years, Lithgow is no stranger to gender-bender roles. From "M. Butterfly" to "The World According to Garp" to "My Brother’s Keeper," he’s never shied away from a meaty gay role.
"It’s the most fascinating subject, because sexuality is at the heart of all of us," he says.
But he makes the point that this movie is not about being gay … it’s about being in love. "The star of this film is a marriage and it’s played by two people," notes Lithgow.
And he goes one step further, speaking for his co-star Alfred Molina. "We both have the feeling that this is the best work we’ve ever done on film; it may be the best film we’ve ever made."