Saturday, December 5, 2009

Two Lovers. A

James Gray is known for his crime films, 'Little Odessa,' 'The Yards,' and 'We Own the Night' (the latter of which I've seen and liked). That's why it's a surprise that his most recent film is a small romantic drama. The only real similarity between it and his previous works is the casting of Joaquin Phoenix, Gray's main collaborator. This is a beautiful little movie and one of the most expertly crafted romances I've seen. It's a love triangle story between Leonard (Phoenix), his neighbor Michelle (Gwyneth Paltrow) and the daughter of one of Leonard's family's friends. Her name is Sandra, played by the incredibly pretty and likable Vinessa Shaw. The strange thing is that Michelle and Sandra aren't aware of each other's existence. Leonard keeps this concealed, adding to the intrigue (and in a way, suspense) of the movie. All of the performances here are just about perfect. Phoenix (in what he says is his final acting role, a shame, seeing as he's been one of the best actors of the decade) captures the complexity and oddly charming personality of Leonard, while Paltrow gives all she has to make Michelle believable. As for Shaw, she's simply adorable as Sandra. 'Two Lovers' is as smart and intelligent a romance as you'll find. It's almost like a modern version of some of the classic romance films from Hollywood's golden era. It's one of the year's best movies.

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