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LOVE IS STRANGE (review)

love_is_strangeLOVE IS STRANGE
Written by Ira Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias
Directed by Ira Sachs
Starring John Lithgow, Alfred Molina and Marisa Tomei
 

Ben: Sometimes when you live with people, you know them better than you care to.

Yes, love is strange, but I’m not so sure it is as strange as this latest film by Ira Sachs (KEEP THE LIGHTS ON).  With LOVE IS STRANGE, Sachs paints his picture of a long time couple who have been separated by circumstance with all the right strokes, but the story itself is never fully realized all the same. The acting, the pacing, the tone, everything is on point, but the story itself is either too New York-centric or simply too implausible to be taken seriously. Instead, it feels forced from the start, which made it difficult for me to fully appreciate everything else about it that worked.

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Ben and George (John Lithgow and Alfred Molina) have been together for 39 years and they decide to get married now that it is legal for them to do so in the state of New York. Unfortunately, George is fired shortly thereafter from his job teaching music at a Catholic private school, because his lifestyle is not keeping in step with the Christian values he swore to uphold as long as he was employed there. The school knew he was gay the whole time but making his relationship “official” caught the attention of the bishop and could no longer be “tolerated”. This event means that Ben and George, who have been living in their Manhattan apartment for more than two decades, can no longer afford to do so, and must find temporary living arrangements until they find something they can afford. This is where Sachs loses me. I could not accept that these two responsible human beings didn’t have enough savings to last more than a month without work coming into their home. And it only gets more contrived from there. They could both stay at a friend’s place upstate but that would make looking for work and apartments in the city too difficult. So they have to be split up as their city friends only have enough room to house one of them during this difficult time.

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Once the premise is established, LOVE IS STRANGE takes on a very uncomfortable tone. Suddenly, the friends and family who just recently celebrated their love and marriage, and who generously opened their doors to them in their time of need, are nothing but annoyed by their presence. There are only so many times that I can watch Marisa Tomei scowl and complain about how she can’t get a moment of peace before I am fully annoyed as well. Lithgow and Molina both give fine performances as this long time couple. Their love and admiration for each other is believable and heartfelt, as is the history between them, but as splitting them up feels so forced, it is just too much for Sachs to ask for us to care about them being reunited again in the end.

3 sheep

 

Your turn!

How many sheep would you give Love Is Strange?

 

2 Comments

  1. Sir, if you lived in NYC and aren’t filthy rich, then I’m afraid you’ll find this story painfully applausible.

    Real estate prices really are that high. And it’s the human condition of seperation we are commenting on here. I’m afraid you’ve missed the point.

    • Thank you for reading. I’m not sure that I missed the point so much as I didn’t feel it was properly communicated. I am aware that real estate in Manhattan is out of control. That said, I still feel that setting up the separation felt forced and manipulative. All the same, I didn’t feel that their separation was the focus of the film. Once separated, they hardly seem to notice each other gone until the one scene where Molina shows up at Lithgow’s door. The rest of the time, the film felt focused on how their presence was affecting those around them, especially in the case of Marisa Tomei and her family. I do think the film has many admirable qualities but I don’t feel that it made the point you feel I missed very well.

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