Monday, September 22, 2014

The Lovely, Lyrical Yet Oddly Titled LOVE IS STRANGE

Now playing at a indie art house near me:

LOVE IS STRANGE (Dir. Ira Sachs, 2014)

I first became aware of the great actors John Lithgow and Alfred Molina back in the early ‘80s. Lithgow from his Oscar-nominated role as a trans-sexual ex-football player in George Roy Hill’s THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP; Molina from his brief but memorable turn as Indiana Jones’ untrustworthy guide in the classic opening sequence of Steven Spielberg’s RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (“Throw me the idol, I’ll throw you the whip!”)

In the three decades since, both thespians have portrayed a wide range of characters, some upstanding; some sinister (both have made excellent villains), but neither has come across more human, or with as much warmth as in Iran Sach’s fifth feature as writer/director, LOVE IS STRANGE, opening this weekend at an art house near me.

The film opens with the wedding of Lithgow and Molina, as a gay couple who’ve been together for 39 years, in a low key ceremony in a community garden in Lower Manhattan. News of the marriage leads to Molina losing his job as choir director for a Catholic School, leaving the couple unable to afford their beloved New York apartment.

While searching for a new place to stay, Lithgow, a retired painter, goes to live with his nephew (Darren Burrows), his wife Marissa Tomei, and their withdrawn teenage son (Charlie Tahan) while Molina moves in with two neighbors (Cheyenne Jackson and Manny Perez), a couple of gay cops who love to party.

With Lithgow having to sleep in a bunkbed in Tahan’s room, and Molina crashing on the couch of Jackson and Perez’s party pad, their living situations are a bit strained. Tomei, a successful novelist, finds it hard to write with Lithgow doddering about, but when she gets him out of the house to work on a new painting on the roof of their building, she questions the appropriateness of his using her son’s school friend (Eric Tabach) as a model.

Sach's oddly titled film is spare story-wise, but rich with feeling and relatable details dealing with having to adjust to change. “When you live with people, you know them better than you care to,” Lithogow tells Molina in one of their touching late night phone conversations.

None of Sachs’ characters make any false moves – there’s no forced quirkiness or any force fed one-liners. We almost feel like we are eavesdropping on a small connected group of real people. It’s a lovely, tender experience given an emotionally gripping gravitas by its well chosen cast. Especially, and obviously, in the understated yet piercing performances of Lithgow and Molina, who just may be the most convincing screen couple of the year.

More later...

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