Monday, July 13, 2009

Seeking happiness...

The miserable_man_with_a_troubled_life has certainly provided great fodder for cinema over the decades. Yet, most films don’t try to focus too much on the troubled man’s depressive tendencies for it might make for some strained viewing. Usually, directors add a comedic element or even infuse their work with a hopeful feeling to allow the audience to believe that a new dawn will start in the troubled man’s life.

Even though James Gray’s Two Lovers gives some hope that the troubled main character (Leonard played by Joaquin Phoenix) will finally find happiness, he certainly does not cut any corners in illustrating Leonard's inner struggles.

The film starts off on a low point in Leonard's life and very quickly we learn that his life has had many such low moments because of his parent’s constant worry.

His parents want him to be happy, just any parent would. So they try to fix him with up a girl.

As a result of such an arranged dinner meeting, Leonard meets Sandra (Vinessa Shaw), a sweet charming woman. Sandra is the warm hearted compassionate woman that a guy should marry. But the problem is most men think like Leonard and don’t instantly fall for the Sandra types in their life but instead chase the glittering Michelle lookalikes (played by Gwyneth Paltrow). The audience knows immediately which woman is right for Leonard and which isn’t. But we are given a front row seat to the inner turmoil and anguish that Leonard has to undergo before he can finally come to that decision on his own.

Two Lovers has the same dimly lit atmosphere that Gray’s first feature, Little Odessa, had. That grayish atmosphere works quite well here as it mirrors Leonard’s mood which isn’t too uplifting. One can sense the invisible cloud of misery that hangs over his head constantly, even when he puts on a smile. Joaquin Phoenix has done an amazing job in conveying the inner feelings of Leonard via his expressions -- his face speaks volumes and accordingly the film can afford moments of silence to allow those feelings to be sensed. The screenplay also includes many moments of intimate conversations rarely found amid the modern Hollywood noise. For example, the late night conversation Leonard has with Michelle (who is also his neighbour across the apartment complex) via his cell phone is truly refreshing and is light years away from feeling like scripted cinema.

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