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Thursday
Feb262009

Two Lovers

WARNING: SPOILERS FOLLOW

While the world obsesses over Joaquin Phoenix's strange departure from acting to take up a career in hip-hop, I was lucky enough to check out what could very well be his last movie, Two Lovers. And what a beautiful movie it is. As I sit here and write this review and ponder over what I just saw, I've come to realize just how much I enjoyed this twisted look at love, loss, and the unhappiness that many people live with daily.

The film follows Leonard (Joaquin Phoenix), who attempts to kill himself by drowning at the outset of the film, only to give up and resurface. He's a troubled man, depressed after his fiancé leaves him. While his parents attempt to make sparks fly with Sandra (Vinessa Shaw), Leonard falls in love with a beautiful woman named Michelle (Gwyneth Paltrow) who has just moved in next door.

What follows is a dark and in depth look at love and settling for somebody you know will never make you happy, all through the eyes of a depressed and bitter man. Love doesn't always work out and that crutch has been explored through other films, but rarely do you get to see a troubled man get worse. It was fascinating watching this guy descend deeper into loneliness, however saddening it may be.

While the title obviously plays to the fact that Leonard is seeing two women, Two Lovers also relates to Michelle, who is seeing Leonard and another older man who she says she is in love with. What this creates narratively is an ending that leaves the film at a crossroads. Despite being madly in love with Michelle, he is forced to settle with his second choice, which for him is no choice at all. Although he ends up with somebody who loves him and will take care of him, it doesn't negate the loneliness. At the end of the film, Leonard is still unhappy and the tear he sheds is for the loneliness that is still eating away inside of him. Just like his previous love, Michelle leaves him which forces him to follow the same circular pattern of never finding true happiness.

What really brings this film around to this type of quality are the extraordinary performances. In particular, Joaquin Phoenix does an amazing job with Leonard, a loser so pitiful that you might feel like abandoning him, but Phoenix's brilliant portrayal makes him a character that, despite his shortcomings, you can't help but sympathize with.

This is one of those rare movies that you can't watch and know exactly how to feel. Like films such as Gone Baby Gone, it never reaches a true conclusion and leaves it up to the viewer to decide how they feel. That is its strongest feature. When this movie was over, I knew I liked it, but in retrospect, I realized how great it was and I think it deserves to be seen. It's only in limited release right now, but if you can find a theatre screening it, I think you'll find a real hidden gem in Two Lovers.

Two Lovers receives 5/5

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