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Movie Review: Two Lovers

Alternate Title: Contrasts

Story: Imagine a contemporary love story that is not filled with stupid boy/girl antics, pratfalls and fart jokes. Director and writer James Gray (along with writer Richard Menello) have created a romantic movie that is an adult, character driven tale of love lost and found (sans stupid gimmicks).

It is the fall of 2008, in the colorful community of Brighton Beach. Leonard has moved back home with his loving, devoted, Russian Jewish parents after some difficult experiences with love, depression and an attempted suicide. He meets the uncomplicated, solid, lovely Sandra through filial connections and she is smitten. He then meets the forbidden fruit (a shiksa) Michelle who is unstable, selfish and dating an older married man. She is basically a lot of trouble. Guess who Leonard goes ga ga over? How this three character based story develops is real, dynamic and engaging.

I highly recommend this film to anyone who likes character driven stories and wonderfully detailed sets and backgrounds. And did I mention there is brisket?

Watch the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KMpuIAiuabw

Acting: It is too bad that Joaquin Phoenix recently announced his retirement from film. I hope he changes his mind. This performance as Leonard is simply terrific. You cannot take your eyes off of him. Gwyneth Paltrow as the forbidden fruit holds her own against a bravura performance by Phoenix. The beautiful Vinessa Shaw somehow managed to come off as plain and did a fine job as Sandra. Isabella Rossellini as Leonard's mother hit pay dirt. She is terrific as is Moni Moshonov, as the loving father.

Trivia: Director James Gray grew up in Queens and wanted to be a painter. This is his third film with Joaquim Phoenix. His grandparents were Russian immigrants. Joaquin Phoenix was born in Puerto Rico to Children of God missionaries John Bottom Amram and Arlyn Dunetz Jochebed (a.k.a. Heart), Joaquin was the middle child in a brood of five. He once refused to wear shoes during a photo shoot for Prada because they were made out of leather. He is a vegan. He announced his retirement from acting and said that Two Lovers would be his last movie as an actor. Stay tuned.

Predilection: I like films made in Brighton Beach. It is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Brooklyn.

Critters: Goldfish and seagulls and a dog (who is never, ever walked).

Food: It is a Jewish household. Food is always in the picture. I was particularly taken with the brisket scene. Without blowing my own horn, I must say that my Judy Lobo brisket looks better than the one featured in the film and I dare say, tastes better. Anyone reading this want to testify to that statement?

Sex Spectrum: Leonard gets lucky with both of the ladies.

Soundtrack: A wonderful track filled with great opera arias.

Opening Titles: I cannot remember.

Visual Art: The details are visually eye popping. I felt as is I were in my Aunt Minnie and Uncle Larry's Brighton Beach apartment 40 years ago.

Theater Audience: Five other people.

Weather: It was a chilly fall and winter in Brighton Beach.

Sappy Factor: 0

Quirky Meter: 0

Squirm Scale: 0

Drift Factor: I paid attention throughout.

Tissue Usage: 0

Oscar Worthy: Perhaps

Big Screen or Rental: Either would be fine. Check out director James Gray's other films, including: Little Odessa, We Own the Night and The Yards.

Length: Under two hours.