Tag Archives: Marisa Tomei

Love is Strange (2014)

loveisstrangw

“Love is Strange” is a solid little film whose finale nevertheless left this viewer feeling somewhat half-satisfied, puzzling on whether that was ‘it.’ To be fair, the good far outweighs the bad for this project- writer-director Ira Sachs infuses “Love is Strange” with an honesty and a subtlety that is sometimes frustrating, sometimes heartrending, and the leads perform admirably in true-to-life, non-showy roles.

Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) are an aging gay couple who have just tied the knot. Good for them, bad for George’s career- the Catholic School where George teaches music is displeased that George’s sexuality is now made known to everyone by his getting married. George is a believer and a well-loved teacher, but what does that matter to the fat cats who run the show, and are overeager to push George back in the closet?

Nothing it seems. Worse, now Ben and George can’t keep up payments on their apartment, so they are shuffled off to live with friends and family. Absent-minded artist Ben goes to live with a distant relative where he is treated like an unwanted stray and an annoyance in their cramped apartment. George, on the other hand, stays with a gay cop couple who party long and hard day in and day out, befuddling the old man.

“Love is Strange” is a quiet film with lots of static long takes, and it seems ‘real’ to a startling extent. Ben and George’s relationship is very sweet and passionate without being graphically sexual. The movie also has some interesting things to say about fidelity and ageism, and the value (or lack thereof, in some cases) of family.

I would have liked a bit more resolution to the plotline concerning the boy (Charlie Tahan) stealing the French books (though the father (Darren E. Burrows’) hysterical and accusing reaction is priceless.) The lovely Marisa Tomei plays the role of the boy’s mother and the wife of the relative taking Ben in, and the whole cast does a uniformly great job, including the young boy actor as the moody teen who doesn’t take to Ben’s presence famously.

The more I think about the ending, weirdly, the more ‘right’ it seems- the tenderness and the grit and the bittersweet melancholy of it- and my initial miffed reaction to the speediness of the wrap-up has more to do with my own personal response than anything to do with the quality of the writing or directing. That said, I think there could have been a little more added to the conclusion.

I don’t think “Love is Strange” is one of the best gay-themed movies of all time, but it certainly holds it’s own in a subgenre whose movies range from fantastically good to woefully poor. Lithgow and Molina portray aging New Yorkers equipped with a tenderness and a good humor that spits back in the face of mounting obstacles. If you’ve never heard about it until now, you’re not the only one; “Love is Strange” was miserably under talked about, and it’s certainly ‘strange’ that it hasn’t gotten more attention than it received.

love-is-strange

https://www.youtube.com/embed/XdfA5Ff5e78“>

Four Rooms (1995)

For reasons I cannot fully explain, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, and laughed throughout. Blame it on my crazy sense of humor. Blame it on my love of gratuitous film violence and insanity. But mostly, blame it on Tim Roth. Roth’s manic, inspired portrayal of swishy, spasticated, neurotic bellhop “Ted” resulted in one of the most entertaining characters I’ve seen in a while.

Here’s the deal- “Four Rooms” is a pseudo-anthology film featuring four segments written and directed by four filmmakers. Each segment follows Ted (Roth) through one insane New Year spent at a hotel and punctuated by violence, weird sexuality, and mutilation. Three of the segments are directed by filmmakers I’m not really familiar with, and the fourth is done by Tarantino.

I liked all of the stories in the film, but in different ways. I didn’t really know what to make of the first one. A coven of witches staying at the hotel, played by prominent ’90s icons such as Madonna and Lili Taylor, discover they need sperm to complete their witchy potion to bring the goddess Diana to life. And who else for the job but twitchy hotel bellboy Roth?

The second story involves an insane husband and wife who want to Ted to participate in their kinky sex games. The third and the funniest, “The Misbehavers,” follows Ted as he is bribed into caring for Antonio Banderas’s two whiny children. The kids, who exemplify the reason I hate small children, soon push Ted over the edge with their demands. But how will Ted react when there’s a real emergency on hand?

I actually thought Tarantino’s short, “The Man From Hollywood,” was the weakest, because it seemed self-indulgent, suffering from uninterrupted periods of Tarantino reading his dialogue. In this one, Ted comes across a Hollywood bigwig (Tarantino) with a shocking proposition.

I watched this movie free of the knowledge that it had been critically panned, with an abysmal 14% on Rotten Tomatoes. I think you have to have a certain kind of sense of humor to appreciate this kind of movie. For me, it was very funny, because it wasn’t the usual wishy-washy cliche type of comedy.

I derived the majority of the humor from Tim Roth’s absurdly physical performance. It reminded me a little of Charlie Chaplin for the ’90s, which was, obviously, a less innocent time for cinema than the Tramp’s heyday. Overall, “Four Rooms” is an interesting and overlooked black comedy for those who like their comedy absurd and bizarre.