Academy Award nominee, John Lithgow, Academy Award Winner, Marisa Tomei, and Emmy-nominated, Alfred Molina, provided grade-A substance to indie filmmaker Ira Sachs’ Love Is Strange. Set in New York City, Love Is Strange, serves as an aesthetic introspective into the family dynamics between same-sex partners and their loved ones in the year 2014. Ultimately, the dynamic is rendered no more or less adhesive than the average family, as it is characterized by devotion intermingled with dysfunction.
Lithgow and Molina star as Ben and George, a same-sex couple who have been together for 39 years. The film opens with their wedding day, as they are now free to legally marry in the state of New York. They are a couple comfortable and grounded in their long-term commitment to each other and have garnered trusted friends and family members as attendants.
While the legal recognition should be a time to fete as a milestone to their union, a quagmire erupts and stifles their domestic progress. Upon learning about the ceremony, George is fired from his career position as a music teacher in a Catholic school and from here their lives unravel.
No longer able to afford their apartment, Ben and George are forced to rely upon the goodwill of family and friends for a place to live until they can find a new affordable apartment. George stays with their more animated gay neighbors; two police officers named Ted and Roberto, while Ben settles in with his adult nephew Elliot and his family. Elliot is married to Kate (Marisa Tomei) and they have a young, abrasive teen son named Joey (Charlie Tahan of Blue Jasmine and I Am Legend).
Directed and co-written by Sachs along with Mauricio Zacharias, Love Is Strange fails to stimulate the viewer beyond its stellar cast. Marisa Tomei’s performance as the growing short on patience, work from home novelist who now has to share her small home with Ben, is elegant and exacting.
Lithgow as Ben remains true to his usual on-screen polish. What more can be said about Lithgow and his eloquent range? Alfred Molina glistens with understated charm and credibility as the more sensitive partner George.
Young Charlie Tahan is coming of age. He yields a stand-out performance as a teen who ultimately finds his life enriched via the gracious and minimalistic auspices of his uncle Ben, in spite of his rudeness to the aging family house guest.
Love Is Strange is richly aesthetic and yet the artful production fails to provide much else to grab your attention. Exceptional performances do little to broaden that sense of passion every viewer seeks from a production. Sachs allows the camera to linger on far too long with shots of character reflection. The intended aesthetic focus becomes boring, tedious, and ineffective. It is almost embarrassing to watch.
While the viewer may care about Ben and George, Sachs fails to hammer the nail into challenges of their journey. The production is muted, but not in a manner that stirs the audience.
Rated R and running for 94 minutes, Love Is Strange misses its mark. It is lackluster and crying out for more definition. The film is in limited release and it warrants three out of five stars due to the outstanding cast.
Opinion and Review By Janet Walters Levite
Sony Classics–Love Is Strange