Mar 8, 2015

[Movies] Love is Strange (2014)

Love knows no labels, whether we're talking about gender, race, religion, age, or what have you. And as much as those of us in the LGBT community do our best to embrace this principle, there are subtle indications of how we also forget about it. When you look at the vast majority of LGBT entertainment, we follow in Hollywood's footsteps by predominantly casting young, attractive actors as talents.

Love is Strange is an interesting change of pace since it involves an older gay relationship and yet also featuring rather notable acting talent. And the story isn't all that typical either since it just about infidelity or silly nonsense like that. There are so many other stories out there and it's kind of nice to encounter a movie that tries to tackle something different.

The situation in this movie is a little quirky, but very possible when you think about the economic realities of these oh so modern times. Despite all our advances in many areas, it's not that simple to get a "happily ever after" in a manner of speaking.

Synopsis: Love is Strange is a 2014 French-American LGBT drama movie written and directed by Ira Sachs together with co-screenwriter Mauricio Zacharias. The movie premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and also screened at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival.

The movie begins with the marriage of Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) after 39 years of being together. It's a happy moment shared with a select group of family and friends but ends up having negative repercussions for George's work. Given he works as a music teacher at a Catholic school, it should have been of little surprise that the archdiocese reacted badly once they heard one of their teachers had gotten married in such a manner.

This results in the sad realization that they cannot afford to support their New York apartment on their own, and thus turn to family and friends for help. The resulting arrangement has Ben staying in Brooklyn with his nephew Elliot (Darren Burrows), Elliot's wife Kate (Marisa Tomei) and their son Joey (Charlie Tahan). George on the other hand ends up staying with their recently former neighbors Roberto (Manny Perez) and Ted (Cheyenne Jackson), who are a gay couple who both work as policemen. The situation is far from ideal and the two do their best to still spend time together despite all that has come between them at this point.

First, this movie features some really notable actors, as I stressed in the beginning of this review. John Lithgow and Alfred Molina make for a lovely on-screen couple and the poignancy of their personal chemistry is rather endearing. You don't need to be making out 24/7 to show that you love one another after all. Thus the two actors use more subtle actions to show how these two have been together longer than I've been alive.

Admittedly it took me a while to properly recognize that Marisa Tomei was in this movie. She felt a little subdued in this role, but then again she is a lot older than I remember her to be. This movie wasn't structured as a comedy either, so her performance as a devoted enough movie wasn't too bad at all. She nicely rounded out things and helped things along quite well.

I rather liked the story, even though it largely feels sort of slice of life. I mean that in the sense that we're all just watching their lives unfold during a difficult but not exactly world-ending period of their lives. It's far from ideal and it's hard to be apart from the man you've literally just married for an extended period of time. But at the same time it's a still a compelling story and it's a great reminder of how much still happen even during the most "ordinary" of days.

This is not a movie that will descend into base narratives about infidelity or even silly fighting over how difficult things are. Ben and George are a pretty solid couple and they have the patience of age. The decision to go with more mature actors results in more mature characters who have the perseverance to put up with a lot more crap than normal even though they shouldn't have to. It doesn't make their suffering at times all that appropriate - but it does provide an interesting perspective.

I'm not sure what else to say about this movie. At the end of the day I enjoyed it, although I can expect some folks to have a harder time with the pacing of the story and the way things go. But that's just in comparison with movies that try to aim for a wider audience with shallower cinematic tastes and not enjoying this movie is their loss.

Love is Strange is a lovely movie and quite the fact of life when you repeat the title to yourself. We have a couple going through a strange period in their lives together as a couple and yet still somewhat making the most of things. Thus the movie gets a highly respectable 4.5 artworks painted by Ben out of a possible 5.

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