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2 April 2009

Two Lovers and a Whole Lot More Meh

It's always risky going to the cinema in London--especially in my quartier--because the presence of the French is almost guaranteed. The Screen on Baker Street tonight was no exception and there was a French couple in front of me who spent half the film talking (not whispering, not even pretending to make an effort to talk more quietly) and the other half kissing and making Gallic grunts; I knew they were French even before the first Gallic grunt, though. I didn't do too well in the cinema seating lottery as a couple of seats along with me were three very fat Middle Eastern women who didn't seem to have grasped the concept of shutting-up-and-watching-the-film either as they chattered away, texted, ate food noisily and even took a phone call during the film. I was initially hopeful as the steward was standing in the aisle with arms folded at the start, which kept everyone quiet but as soon as he left the chattering restarted.

Actually, I probably would have minded more were Two Lovers not so utterly dull. I haven't seen in a film where I've cared less about the characters in a very long time. As I don't wear a watch, I check the time on my phone during films only very occasionally because doing so illuminates the screen and I hate to disturb the viewing experience of others. Tonight, though, I did. I thought we were about 90 minutes into the 1h50 film but actually, only 45 minutes had elapsed. That was when I knew I was in trouble; somehow, though, the old lady chatter and the Gallic displays of affection only irritated me more.

I wasn't really expecting the film to be outstanding--the reviews I'd read were at best ambivalent--but I thought Joaquin Phoenix was hot in Gladiator in a sexy/dastardly kind of way so I thought I'd give it a try. The IMDb blurb reads as follows:

"A Brooklyn-set romantic drama about a bachelor (Phoenix) torn between the family friend his parents wish he would marry and his beautiful but volatile new neighbor."

This poses an interesting semantic question: what exactly is a bachelor? An unmarried or single man, right? But would you call the Pope a bachelor? I don't think so. Likewise, calling Leonard (Phoenix's character) a bachelor feels deeply wrong even though he is (at the beginning, at least) a single guy. There are probably better descriptions: weirdo, for example. The film opens with his failed and/or half-hearted suicide attempt where he jumps off a bridge in Brooklyn into the bay. Shortly afterwards, his parents try to foist upon him the nice Jewish girl who is the daughter of their friend (and future business partner) who is nice (if bland or, at least, she isn't given enough screen time to develop much of a personality) but he finds out that Gwyneth Paltrow lives upstairs and she's really hot and really fucked up, what with her drugs and her miscarriages and her relationship with the married guy who pays the rent on her flat. 

So, obviously, poor Leonard can't decide what to do. One of the reviews I read or heard said it was highly unlikely that even one chick would be interested in a guy like Leonard, let alone one who looks like Gwyneth Paltrow and a pretty, successful Jewish girl. It's true. He mumbles so much you can barely hear him most of the time (there are occasional moments of clarity where he sounds a bit like Commodus again but I couldn't tell whether Phoenix was slipping out of character then or whether it was intentional). In fact, at first, I wasn't sure whether the character was supposed to be mentally retarded.

Anyway, they're all incredibly selfish and self-involved and make stupid decisions and mess each other up. For most of the film, I was wondering whether I had been conned because there didn't seem to be two lovers at all--sure, there are plenty of people who have sex with one another but none of them actually seem to care about anyone else--although towards the end, I concede that I may be forced to reconsider that opinion. The only vaguely likable character was non-Gwyneth but that's probably only because she wasn't on camera enough for her to become as irritating as everyone else (Phoenix and Paltrow tie for first place in the annoying stakes, with Paltrow's other bloke coming in third and Phoenix's pushy dad and mum at fourth and fifth). Nothing much really happens during the entire 1h50, the script was boring, the characters were all meh and to be honest, I really couldn't see much point to it (at a push: some of the Brooklyn / Manhattan scenes were quite nicely shot, the music was OK and Isabella Rossellini did a good job). Also, it's very deceptive because on the IMDb page for Two Lovers, there is a photo of Clive, so I was hoping he might make a guest appearance but it wasn't to be.

You can tell how little I enjoyed this film because I gave it only 5/10, which is the lowest I've given to a film in a long time (my ratings are skewed because the vast majority of movies I watch are awarded 7 or 8/10 and because I rarely hate a film, the ones that I find boring or about which I am ambivalent tend to get 6, 5 or occasionally 4). It's not that I didn't like it; I just didn't care.


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