Set in the insular world of Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, TWO LOVERS is a classic romantic drama, with Joaquin Phoenix giving a raw and vulnerable performance as Leonard, a charismatic but troubled young man who moves back int... more »o his childhood home following a recent heartbreak. While recovering under the watchful eye of his parents (Isabella Rossellini and Moni Monoshov), Leonard meets two women in quick succession: Michelle (Gwyneth Paltrow), a mysterious and beautiful neighbor who is exotic and out-of-place in Leonard's staid world, and Sandra, the lovely and caring daughter of a businessman who is buying out his family's dry-cleaning business.
Leonard becomes deeply infatuated by Michelle, who seems poised to fall for him, but is having a self-destructive affair with a married man. At the same time, mounting pressure from his family pushes him towards committing to Sandra. Leonard is forced to make an impossible decision between the impetuousness of desire and the comfort of love or risk falling back into the darkness that nearly killed him.« less
Mary Kate G. (Marika997) from GRIFFIN, GA Reviewed on 9/13/2009...
It isn't my favorite movie but it is pretty good.
1 of 3 member(s) found this review helpful.
There is Much to Love About Two Lovers.
G. Merritt | Boulder, CO | 02/16/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I saw this gem of a film at the 2008 Denver Film Festival. It was a hit in France long before it was released here in the States. Directed by James Gray (The Yards; We Own the Night), and based loosely on Dostoevsky's novella, "White Nights", Two Lovers tells the emotionally powerful story of Leonard Kraditor (Joaquin Phoenix) who, while engaged to a nice Jewish girl, Sandra Cohen (Vinessa Shaw), falls for his Brooklyn neighbor, Michelle Rausch (Gwyneth Paltrow). Leonard lives with his Jewish parents (played by Isabella Rossellini and Moni Moshonov), who are concerned about their son's depression and suicidal tendencies. Michelle is involved with a married partner in her law firm. Both are deeply vulnerable characters, plagued with very real emotional issues.
James Gray knows his cinema. He has acknowledged an influence from 1950s Italian films in Two Lovers. "Certainly," he admits, "the ending on the beach is totally ripped off from La Strada . . . and I stole quite liberally from the Visconti movie Le Notti Bianche (White Nights)." With Two Lovers, Gray has once again delivered a rare Hollywood film that continues to earn him praise in France, while American audiences stand in line for easily-forgettable Hollywood romances like He's Just Not That Into You. Two Lovers is poignant, emotionally mature, intelligent, well-made, well-crafted, and well-acted. Gray is known for his talent in bringing authenticity and deeply-affecting emotionality to his work. In this film, Gray raises the question, should Leonard pursue the one he loves or the one who loves him. While Phoenix and Paltrow carry the film with their radiant performances as two frustrated lovers, this is ultimately Phoenix's film. His collaboration with Gray and Paltrow results in the most poignant performance of his career. Highly recommended.
SORE EYES | 08/09/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Leonard Kraditor (Joaquin Phoenix) struggles with depression after his fiance leaves him. The movie opens with Leonard attempting suicide. That night he meets Sandra (Vanessa Shaw)-a sweet, affable, loving girl. A short time later he runs into Michelle (Gwyneth Paltrow)-a drug addled, promiscuous, party girl who loves a married man. Sandra wants to take care of Leonard and Leonard wants to take care of Michelle.
In his relationship with Michelle, Leonard is the strong one, the good one. In his relationship with Sandra, he continues to be the weak man from his past-the guy that needs gentle understanding. It's no wonder he pines for Michelle even though she's going to lead him down the path of self destruction. But every lover wants the chase.
I loved this movie and am frankly surprised by the bad reviews. Two Lovers may be subtle and a bit slow for some, but I found it nuanced and charming. At times in my life I've been the sunny party girl in love with the wrong man, the depressed lover pining for a an ex, and the sweet affable girl who could utter such lines as "if you don't want me, it's ok. I mean a lot of guys don't want me." Everyone should find at least one character in this film they can relate to. Highly recommended."
Haunting look into the human heart
Roland E. Zwick | Valencia, Ca USA | 10/12/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It's a tricky enough business trying to juggle two relationships at the same time even under the best of circumstances. Now imagine trying to do so when your mental stability is already in question and your emotional state far from sound.
In "Two Lovers," Joaquin Phoenix plays a young man who suffers from suicidal depression. His condition has made it imperative that he move back in with his parents, an old world couple who live in a spacious apartment in Brighton Beach. Leonard's life turns even more complicated and stressful when he becomes involved with both an attractive friend of the family (whom the parents want him to hook up with) and a beautiful but seriously troubled neighbor he meets one day in the hall. The problem is that Leonard is really head-over-heels in love with the needy, self-absorbed and high maintenance Michelle (who is herself involved with a married man), and is really only using Sandra as a means of getting back at Michelle for not reciprocating his love.
Based on the Dostoevsky short story "White Nights" and the 1957 Visconti movie of the same name, the inexorably sad and moving "Two Lovers" takes place in a world in which the characters rarely talk above a whisper and from which all possibility of joy seems to have been drained away. The movie is almost achingly perceptive about how the human psyche actually works when it comes to affairs of the heart, acknowledging that we can control neither how we feel about others nor how others feel about us - though we certainly do expend a great deal of our energy and time trying! Leonard is not a "bad" guy at heart; he doesn't go out of his way to intentionally hurt others, but he's also not above deceiving himself into believing he's doing nothing wrong when he clearly is. Ditto for Michelle who's too focused on herself and her own needs and desires to much care how her actions are affecting others. And poor, trusting Sandra is the one who may wind up paying for that indifference in the end.
The tone of the film is restrained, subdued and wintry, with the screenplay (by James Gray and Richard Menello) and the direction (by Gray) astutely capturing the dreary emptiness of the characters' lives. Phoenix, Gwyneth Paltrow and Vinessa Shaw give heartbreakingly understated performances as the individuals involved in the messy triangle, as does Isabella Rossellini as Leonard's prying but devoted mother who always seems well attuned to the moods of her child.
Joaquin Phoenix has stated publicly that "Two Lovers" will be the last movie he ever makes as an actor. Let me just state right up front that, if that is indeed the case, it will be a tremendous loss both to the profession and to appreciators of fine acting everywhere. "
A remarkable performance!
Joe Sixpack -- Slipcue.com | ...in Middle America | 07/15/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Two Lovers" (Magnolia Films, 2009) ------------------------------------- Joaquin Phoenix turns in a stunning, multi-layered performance as Leonard, a faltering, shaken young man whose life has been upended by a jilted marriage engagement and a psychiatric diagnosis (that remains fuzzily-defined for the film's viewers...) Leonard has come back home to live with his benign, elderly parents in the predominantly Jewish neighborhood of Brighton Beach, and from this position of infantilization and defeat, he starts to mend his life.
When romance comes into his life, through two women -- one wild and forbidden, the other nurturing and safe -- the complexity of Leonard's character comes into view. One might expect such a damaged man to seek the comfort of the safe lover, the future wife who will replace the fiance who deserted him, but instead he is drawn to the mystery of his wild new neighbor, played by Gwyneth Paltrow. (One remarkable twist in this film is how we as viewers find ourselves pushed away from the ever-attractive Ms. Paltrow: her character exudes danger and chaos: run away! we want to yell as Leonard becomes more and more infatuated with her...)
Phoenix's performance continually defies our expectations. His Leonard doesn't reveal itself in the simplistic, cookie-cutter vocabulary of most modern filmmaking, be it mainstream or indie; there are parts of his personality that remain elusive and that don't make sense, and even his ultimate decision about what to do with his life is difficult to gauge. Did he make a "good" decision? Will it last? Does he heal? We simply do not know. All we know is what we can see, and in this case, what we see is a fine film with an unusually rich, mature psychological complexity. Definitely worth checking out. (Joe Sixpack, Slipcue film review blog)"
Well made drama, with great performances
Andres C. Salama | Buenos Aires, Argentina | 12/08/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"An interesting drama about an imperfect love triangle. Joaquin Phoenix plays Leonard, a man perhaps in his early thirties, living in an apartment in Brooklyn with his parents, a Jewish couple who have a small dry cleaning operation where Leonard works. Leonard has a story behind him: an engagement with a girl was broken some years ago when they found that they were genetically incompatible, and he has tried to kill himself in the past, more than once. His parents, worried by him, try to set him up with Sandra, the nice daughter of a fellow (and apparently wealthier) Jewish businessman. Though not terribly enthusiastic about Sandra, he starts going out with her, who is very attracted to him (why a seemingly down to earth person like Sandra would be attracted to an obviously troubled person like Leonard is unclear, though I suppose things like this happen, though not very usually, in real life). But just when Leonard and Sandra start meeting and knowing each other, he meets Michelle (Gwyneth Paltrow, who is great), an impetuous, beautiful, but messed-up neighbor. Leonard falls for Michelle quickly, but soon realizes that she sees him basically as an asexual friend, and feels no sexual attraction whatsoever for him. In fact, Michelle has a relationship with a married man, and wants Leonard to go out with them in order to see if he would be willing to leave his family to her. A normal guy would realize there is no hope with her and tell her goodbye at this point, but Leonard is too smitten with Michelle to do so. And so, while his relationship with Sandra starts growing, so does his obsession with Michelle (who, while not really loving him, is constantly calling him for help). At the end, Leonard would have to make a choice between living with the nice Sandra, who loves him but is somewhat boring, and the unstable Michelle, who is gorgeous and fun to be with, but also very unstable, and if that wasn't enough, really doesn't love him, and would probably leave him soon if she would even agree to be with him. Not an awful dilemma for a well grounded person. One could argue with the resolution, assuming that Michelle is telling Leonard the truth (WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD): men almost never leave their wives for their lovers, and especially unstable and emotionally immature women like Michelle. Still, these points aside, this is a solid, well-acted movie, which is never boring, and rings truthful most of the time."