Two Lovers

     In October 2008, Joaquin Phoenix announced that he was retiring from acting to pursue a music career and that Two Lovers would be his final movie. Some people believe Phoenix’s career change is just a hoax to gain attention a la comedian Andy Kaufman’s attempt to become a professional wrestler in the early 1980’s. A documentary is being made about Phoenix’s attempt at being a musician by his brother-in-law, actor Casey Affleck. Phoenix has made many bizarre appearances recently at nightclubs around the country and on the Late Show with David Letterman which has added to the speculation that Phoenix’s music career is a gimmick. I really hope that Phoenix’s try at music is a prank and he does return to acting because he is such a talented actor and his movies are always entertaining, with Two Lovers being no different.

     Leonard (Phoenix) is at a very low point in his life. His fiancee has left him. He is suicidal. He is living with his parents(Ruben and Ruth, played by Moni Moshonov and Isabella Rossellini) and working in his father’s dry cleaning store. The one thing that brings Leonard enjoyment is photography. His photographs are like his life; black-and-white with no people. There is, however, one person who would like to bring color to Lenoard’s life, Sandra  (Vinessa Shaw, 3:10 to Yuma). Leonard begins to develop interest in Sandra until one day he meets his neighbor Michelle (Gwyneth Paltrow), who is also battling some difficulties in her life. She is a recovering drug addict with her own messy love life. Leonard quickly develops romantic feelings for Michelle. Sandra is the choice of Leonard’s parents, but Michelle is the choice of Leonard’s heart. Who will end up with who is the question of the day?

     Two Lovers is directed by James Gray, who also helps with the writing of the story along with Ric Menello. Gray also directed and wrote two other Phoenix films, We Own the Night  (2007) and The Yards(2000). Gray and Menello create a compelling story with engaging characters. You are drawn to Leonard as he tries to bring happiness into his life. Joaquin Phoenix is the true star of the film and reminds us of what a great talent the world of movies is losing. He makes you feel what Leonard feels; the despair of a lost love, the energy of a new love, the confusion of what path to follow in life. Gwyneth Paltrow, Vinessa Shaw and Isabella Rossellini also produce skillful performances.

     Two Lovers will leave you wanting more Joaquin Phoenix movies and a better understanding of why love is great and why love bites.

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