Two Lovers (2008)
★★ / ★★★★
“Two Lovers” was about a man with bipolar disorder (Joaquin Phoenix) who falls in love with two women (Gwyneth Paltrow and Vinessa Shaw)–one was emotionally unstable with an edge of coolness about her, while the other was more ordinary but was ready to settle down. I’m not sure if I was supposed to believe that Phoenix’ character really did fall in love with either woman because, throughout the film, I felt like he just a little boy with a crush: either he really liked one of the women or both of them one minute but he was as easily able to detach from them. His indecision made him look like a jerk because of the way he juggled his time between the two. I thought the first part of the movie was consistently strong (even though Phoenix’ character was a bit creepy) because I was interested in the dynamics among the characters, especially Phoenix and Paltrow. Unfortunately, somewhere in the middle it got lost within itself due to its languid tone, dark material, heavy-handedness and self-indulgence. I ran out of patience with it instead of actually wanting to watch the story unravel. There were not enough pay-offs dispersed every fifteen minutes or so. In fact, it just started repeating itself when it came to the lead characters’ constant disappointment by Paltrow’s self-hating character. The whole idea of a woman not feeling like she deserved to be loved was played out and I’ve seen the idea explored in better films. I thought she was essentially a user and ultimately did not know what she wanted so I ended up disliking her greatly. She was so selfish and I felt like her apologies were more for her–so she could feel better for the pain she caused other people. I just couldn’t sympathize with her. Directed by James Gray, “Two Lovers” is a small picture but its main problem was just that: it settled with being small. Instead, it should have acknowledged itself for being small but still delivered the big and insightful ideas. I chose to watch this movie because I thought I would get witty and smart conversations between two mature adults. I was very disappointed because I felt like I was watching a romance between fifteen-year-olds stuck in thirtysomething bodies. Don’t even get me started with the eye-rolling typicality of two lovers chatting over the phone as they looked at each other from across the building. It may work on a Taylor Swift music video but not on a full feature film. The film needed more depth, consistency and a stable sense of identity.