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Book of Love
Book of Love
Actors: Frances O'Connor, Simon Baker, Gregory Smith, Bryce Dallas Howard, Joanna Adler
Director: Alan Brown
Genres: Drama
R     2005     1hr 23min

Elaine and David seem to have the perfect marriage. But everything changes when they meet Chet, an innocent 15 year old boy full of youthful wonder. The threesome form an immediate bond, but a momentary lapse in judgment t...  more »

     
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Movie Details

Actors: Frances O'Connor, Simon Baker, Gregory Smith, Bryce Dallas Howard, Joanna Adler
Director: Alan Brown
Creators: William Rexer, Alan Brown, Trevor Ristow, Michael Romero, Mickey Liddell, Robert Ahrens
Genres: Drama
Sub-Genres: Love & Romance
Studio: Sundance
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen,Letterboxed
DVD Release Date: 04/26/2005
Release Year: 2005
Run Time: 1hr 23min
Screens: Color,Widescreen,Letterboxed
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 5
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

"She doesn't want you anymore!"
M. J Leonard | Silver Lake, Los Angeles, CA United States | 04/30/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"When does one know when a marriage is over? Can a relationship survive the murky waters of infidelity? When do two people release that they're no longer in love? These are questions posed in Book of Love, a smart, perceptive, and engrossing domestic drama that features three of the most astonishingly naturalistic and nuanced performances in recent years.

Book of Love focuses on the tiny stories, the little moments in life where an expression or an action can have enormous and profound significance, whether it's a sight of a fifteen-year-old's swim-toned abs as he pulls of a sweatshirt, a young, impressionable student staring wide-eyed at her teacher, or the look of longing on a woman's face as ponders committing adultery while her husband sleeps in a hammock in the back yard.

High-school history teacher David Walker (Simon Baker) and his events-planner wife Elaine (Frances O'Connor) appear to have the perfect life - a lovely house, good jobs, and a close marriage. We first meet them when they are participating in the intimate routines of every day life - he is going to the toilet, and she is checking out her figure in the mirror. They're an attractive couple, but while she's kept a hard body through yoga, he's gone a little soft around the middle-too little exercise and too much ice cream. Their lives have reached that point where passion is slowly being replaced by contentment; they're still in love but their marriage has shifted and they now know each other so well that a slight touch or look will suffice.

One hot summer day they decide to drop into the local ice cream shop where they meet the 15-year-old Chet (Gregory Smith). Chet, a champion swimmer, possesses a hormone driven sexually aggressive worldliness that seems to capture them both. It doesn't take long for the couple to take an instant liking to him. Elaine initially feels sorry for the boy, his mother is dead, his father works all the time and he is somewhat isolated at school. But Elaine is also subliminally attracted to him, and she underhandedly decides to take him under her wing.

Discovering that he's never been out of New Jersey - he's never even been on a plane - the couple asks him to a Manhattan nightclub to watch a friend sing, and then invite him to dinner at their home. After making some tentative plans to take him to Disney world, the three settle down to a candle lit dinner. Despite his age, Elaine serves the boy several glasses of wine. While David is in a drunken asleep, Chet tries to kiss Elaine.

At first she rebuffs him but he comes by the next day and she immediately gives into the passions that have so sadly begun to dwindle in her marriage. David is shattered when he finds about the indiscretion, his reaction a strange mixture of part titillation and part anger. However, he manages to pull it all together and decides to keep his promise to Chet by paying for them all to go to Disney World.

The pleasure of this film is watching the subtle changes that take place between Elaine and David. The affair precipitates many hidden agendas and ultimately rocks the already deceptively fragile marriage: David wants to start a family with Elaine, but Elaine is far more concerned with maintaining her girlish, trim figure; one night she even tells David "lets have children in about ten years time." But David's paternal instincts are unleashed when he is asked by a lesbian friend to become her sperm donor. He's initially hesitant, but later on in the movie, he seems to warm to the idea.

The problem is that Elaine views Chet, as some kind of equal when in actuality he's not. He may be rapaciously horny, but he has no real life experience behind him. He's eager to be initiated into the world of adults, but Elaine makes a grave miscalculation when she decides to sleep with him. Not only is she in danger of being arrested, but also she's remarkably naïve to think that the dalliance won't have devastating emotional consequences for her marriage.

Writer director Alan Brown makes some sharp observations about married life, human relationships, and how seemingly well-ordered lives can quietly implode almost over night. The three central performances are terrific, and it's interesting to see Australians Simon Baker and Francis O'Connor taking on such emotionally complex roles in the USA. The attractive Baker is terrific as Dave, an affable, likeable and perceptive man who tries drastically to repress the hurt, bitterness, and ugly emotions that lurk beneath his placid exterior.

Dave is worried about his entry into middle age, constantly checking his love handles out in the mirror and trying to control his surroundings with little habits like correcting the grammar of those around him. O'Connor realistically portrays a woman who is 28 and is in no hurry to give up her youth; she's remarkably honest about her desires, and has the courage to actually "own" her indiscretions. And Gregory Smith as Chet does a great job of showing how far a hormonally driven teenager will go to satisfy his desires.

The film opens and closes with a Cambodian girl working on a loom. Perhaps this symbolizes how our lives are intertwined and entangled, and although it's a nice touch it comes across as a bit too conceptual and self-consciously arty. However, Book of Love has a subtle emotional impact that gradually creeps up on you, and stays long after the movie has finished. Viewers, will for sometime, probably find themselves questioning the motivations of the various characters and pondering the unhappy and rather bittersweet resolution to the story. Mike Leonard April 05.
"
Desires beneath the Surface
interested_observer | San Francisco, CA USA | 05/05/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

""Book of Love" is a moderately engaging tale of the effects of adultery on the three principal characters.

Elaine Walker (played by Frances O'Connor) is a 27-year old event planner who likes her yoga and wants to be child-free for another ten years. Her husband, David (played by Simon Baker), a history teacher at a girls' school, has slowly been gaining weight and wants a family. Getting ice cream cones, they are served by Chet, an almost-16-year old high school swimmer working part-time (played by Gregory Smith). Incidentally Elaine gets a look at Chet's tight abs and is impressed. Another visit for ice cream leads to a dinner invitation. Chet hasn't traveled much; so the couple takes him to New York City and promise to take him to Disneyworld. Elaine shortly gives into Chet's desire, after which Elaine tells her husband.

David, though visibly upset, tries to rise above the situation and says he wants to fulfill his promise for the couple to take Chet to Disneyworld. Although both Elaine and Chet have deep misgivings, the three fly down to Orlando and check into a motel with pool. There the anger of David and the wishful thinking of Chet make an appearance, with maybe some other undercurrents. Seeing this, Elaine freezes up. The film heads toward its conclusions.

There are two useful subplots, one involving a student with a crush on David and the other with a lesbian couple wanting David to be a sperm donor. Both subplots give insight on David's character.

None of the three principal characters is forthright in expressing feelings or wants to discuss issues. The dialogue is directed at surface events and is meant to convey an acceptable social exterior. This means the viewer has to watch the body language carefully and has to create theories for the motivations of the characters. There is room for interpretation and for feeling some answers are missing.

All three main actors do a fine job. Chet and David provide frequent skin scenes. The story makes sense on an emotional level.

The main annoyance is ongoing conversation and short scenes on Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge. This does not propel the story. Also, Chet's resolution feels too arty and forced.

Other than the trailer, the DVD extras are especially poor. Director Alan Brown gives two mini-interviews in which the take-home content is that stuff happens to people beyond their control and that actor Baker gained weight for the role of David and would be taking it off.

A pretty good film, high 3 or low 4. I gave the 4 because I liked Gregory Smith as Chet.
"
Fresh material, bad encoding
Andrew Siew | Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia | 09/01/2005
(2 out of 5 stars)

"A movie of this nature generally draws extreme reviews, good and bad; personally I don't find it to be particularly bad or good nor can I relate to it, but i think potential buyers may like to know the fact that the film transfer was done rather badly for this DVD, which is worse than Dreamwork's "Forces of Nature" back in 1997. Dark scenes (like the one in the bar) looked extremely washed out and the resolution of the video was something between a VHS and a pre-1995 Laserdisc.

I would suggest anyone who's interested in this title to rent it first before considering purchasing."
Ménage a Trois, but on whose terms?
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 04/29/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"If three can play at love, and if that love is an equilateral triangle, then each of the three is equally responsible for the ramifications. Were that the case in this little low budget Indie film BOOK OF LOVE the story would have more resonance. But art imitates life and life is full of contradictions and double standards and that is what seems to writer/director Alan Brown seems out to show us.

David (Simon Baker) is a popular history teacher in a private girl's school in New Jersey and is blissfully married to Elaine (Frances O'Connor) who is an Events Planner and thrives on her time with her husband, wanting to delay having children for 'at least ten years' in lieu of an exciting marital sex life. Into this radiantly alive couple's life enters a young fifteen-year-old highschool student and swimmer Chet (Gregory Smith) who happens to meet them in an ice cream parlour and immediately feels a warmth for the two of them. The feeling is mutual, especially and David and Elaine learn that Chet has no strong family ties, has never even been into Manhattan much less to Disney World, a place Chet covets.

David and Elaine invite Chet into their home and lives, dining with him, taking him to a club in Manhattan (a place where Elaine takes the stage to sing with her lesbian friend entertainer), involving him in talks about Cambodian history and philosophy, etc. As an aside, their lesbian couple friends approach David to be the sperm donor for a child and Elaine and David agree to their request. David, Elaine and Chet appear to be a most happy trio until Chet makes physical advances to Elaine, advances which Elaine initially gently rebuffs but simultaneously feels awakened sensual responses to this young virginal lad. Chet finds it difficult to separate his love for the couple and his corporeal desires and ultimately Chet and Elaine have a sexual encounter.

Elaine confesses her indiscretion to David, allows him his initial pain, and then is surprised at David's forgiveness and immediate physical response to her. Chet comes to David's office, apologizes for the event, and David again surprises Chet with his forgiveness and his suggestion that the trio continue with David's promised trip for the three of them to Disney World.

While on the outing to Disney World David invites Chet into the hotel room for a drink and a demonstration of Chet's diving skills, a set up for a physical encounter on the floor. Elaine enters the room, sees the encounter as a sexual one, frightens Chet who stabs David in a scuffle, and the Disney World trip ends in disaster. It is the working out of the new twist on the triangle that furnishes the rest of the film and the final results of the trio's relationship is surprising and stretches the limits of credibility.

The problem member of this ménage a trois is Elaine, a woman who allows herself to become sexually involved with Chet, but when she believes David is likewise sexually involved with the lad she is unable to cope. It seems like the woman of the triangle determines the rules and that is where many will feel this story is more tragic.

O'Connor is a fine English/Australian actress and gives a top-flight performance. Simon Baker is another Australian (Tasmanian) actor who has a great deal of depth and strong screen presence. Gregory Smith is a young Canadian actor who shows tremendous promise. Together the three give fine ensemble acting that makes this unlikely trio credibility and engages our empathy. There is a lot of talent in this little film and for a first movie writer/director Alan Brown gives notice of a talent to watch. In time some of the side indulgences included in this film will be less intrusive and more insightfully utilized. But on the whole this is a successful film worth watching. Grady Harp, April 05"