Two Lovers

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Posted February 12, 2009 in Film

Joaquin Phoenix startled fans when he quit acting to pursue a rap career. Two Lovers, the last film on his résumé, will likely have them clamoring for him to resurrect his career—not just in terror at the YouTube videos of his bearded, bouncy, monotone hip hop. As Leonard Kraditor, the only son of a working class dry cleaning family in Brighton Beach, Phoenix is stoop-shouldered, depressive, yet certain he’s destined for greater things. The great thing he has in mind is his ice blonde neighbor Gwyneth Paltrow, who in a public image about-face plays a shallow party girl with a broad grin—it’s the first time she’s been fun in years. Parents (and roommates) Moni Moshonov and Isabella Rossellini would rather he settle down with a nice Jewish girl like Vinessa Shaw, the daughter of a dry cleaning friend, who adores Phoenix with the reverence he bestows on Paltrow. Director James Gray (who co-wrote the script with Ric Menello) does his film a disservice by casting Shaw as Phoenix’s leftovers; not only can’t she act, she’s a Valkyrie beauty who saps the frisson of Phoenix strung along someone plain. Otherwise, Two Lovers is a honed, blue collar He’s Just Not That Into You that’s both good and wrenching, an uncannily perceptive acknowledgment of settling—Paltrow with Phoenix, and Phoenix with Shaw—with a happy kiss at the end that leaves us chilled.

 


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