Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Tom Hardy Says He'll Never Do Another Romantic Comedy Again Thanks To 'This Means War' Tom Hardy Says He'll Never Do Another Romantic Comedy Again Thanks To 'This Means War' David Fincher Apparently Thinks 'Dragon Tattoo' Sequel 'The Girl Who Played With Fire' Could Get Made David Fincher Apparently Thinks 'Dragon Tattoo' Sequel 'The Girl Who Played With Fire' Could Get Made Fall TV Preview: Our 22 Most Anticipated Shows For The Rest Of 2014 Fall TV Preview: Our 22 Most Anticipated Shows For The Rest Of 2014 TIFF Review: 'Still Alice' Starring Julianne Moore, Kristen Stewart, Alec Baldwin & Kate Bosworth TIFF Review: 'Still Alice' Starring Julianne Moore, Kristen Stewart, Alec Baldwin & Kate Bosworth Jason Reitman Calls ‘Labor Day’ "A Misguided Effort" Jason Reitman Calls ‘Labor Day’ "A Misguided Effort" David Fincher & James Ellroy Plotting 1950s Crime Noir Series For HBO David Fincher & James Ellroy Plotting 1950s Crime Noir Series For HBO Chris Evans On His Directorial Debut ‘Before We Go,’ Filming In New York, & ‘Avengers: Age Of Ultron’ Chris Evans On His Directorial Debut ‘Before We Go,’ Filming In New York, & ‘Avengers: Age Of Ultron’ TIFF Review: Liv Ullmann’s ‘Miss Julie’ Starring Jessica Chastain, Colin Farrell & Samantha Morton TIFF Review: Liv Ullmann’s ‘Miss Julie’ Starring Jessica Chastain, Colin Farrell & Samantha Morton Boardwalk Empire - Season 5 - Episode 1 Recap: “Golden Days For Boys & Girls” Boardwalk Empire - Season 5 - Episode 1 Recap: “Golden Days For Boys & Girls” Box-Office: ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy’ Leads Slowest Weekend Of The Year & Surpasses ‘Iron Man’ & ‘Man Of Steel’ Box-Office: ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy’ Leads Slowest Weekend Of The Year & Surpasses ‘Iron Man’ & ‘Man Of Steel’ TIFF Review: Tom McCarthy's 'The Cobbler' Starring Adam Sandler TIFF Review: Tom McCarthy's 'The Cobbler' Starring Adam Sandler TIFF Review: Kevin Smith's Horror Story 'Tusk,' Starring Justin Long, Michael Parks & Johnny Depp TIFF Review: Kevin Smith's Horror Story 'Tusk,' Starring Justin Long, Michael Parks & Johnny Depp TIFF Review: Noah Baumbach's 'While We're Young' Starring Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver & Amanda Seyfried TIFF Review: Noah Baumbach's 'While We're Young' Starring Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver & Amanda Seyfried TIFF Review: Dan Gilroy’s ‘Nightcrawler’ Starring Jake Gyllenhaal & Rene Russo TIFF Review: Dan Gilroy’s ‘Nightcrawler’ Starring Jake Gyllenhaal & Rene Russo TIFF Review: ‘The Drop’ Starring Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace & James Gandolfini TIFF Review: ‘The Drop’ Starring Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace & James Gandolfini 'Wolf Of Wall Street' Star Margot Robbie Circling Live-Action 'Ghost In The Shell' Remake 'Wolf Of Wall Street' Star Margot Robbie Circling Live-Action 'Ghost In The Shell' Remake The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes

Sundance Review: Ira Sachs' ‘Love Is Strange’ Is A Brilliantly Performed Romance That’s Always Real

Indiewire By James Rocchi | Indiewire January 20, 2014 at 12:08PM

Directed by Ira Sachs ("Keep the Lights On," "Married Life"), "Love Is Strange" depicts a New York love affair whose depth of feeling is only matched by the length of its duration. George (Alfred Molina) and Ben (John Lithgow) have been together for 39 years, and as the film begins, they’re fussing and getting ready for a big event—after all these years, they’re finally going to (and for that matter, finally able to) get married. It’s a beautiful day, and George and Ben are surrounded by family and friends and well-wishers, but it turns out to be one with consequences.
1
Ira Sachs, Molina, Lithgow

Directed by Ira Sachs ("Keep the Lights On," "Married Life"), "Love Is Strange" depicts a New York love affair whose depth of feeling is only matched by the length of its duration. George (Alfred Molina) and Ben (John Lithgow) have been together for 39 years, and as the film begins, they’re fussing and getting ready for a big event—after all these years, they’re finally going to (and for that matter, finally able to) get married. It’s a beautiful day, and George and Ben are surrounded by family and friends and well-wishers, but it turns out to be one with consequences. With his marriage a matter of public record, George loses his job teaching music at a Catholic private school for violating the Archdiocese’s code, and so the devout, decent George is out of a job, with the two forced out of the apartment they bought, unable to keep paying its only-in-New-York array of co-op fees and other obligations entailed. And so, while they look for an affordable apartment in New York, they have to stay with family and friends—separately, with Ben staying with his novelist niece Kate (Marisa Tomei) and her family, and George staying on the couch in the apartment Kate’s son Ted (Cheyenne Jackson) shares with his boyfriend.

If "Love Is Strange" were nothing more than as showcase for its performances, it would still be superlative; Lithgow and Molina are perfect not just as Ben and George, but also as the combination they make with each other. It has been noted that early couples say “I love you” with the force of a thousand exploding suns, but that long-standing couples say “I love you” in a way that can also ask, unspoken, if it was you who happened to leave the goddamn garage door open again. That kind of love is rarely seen on film, and hard to portray when it is; Molina and Lithgow make that happen here, with all of the feeling and fights and closeness that a real couple would have.

But Sachs and co-writer Mauricio Zacharias also talk—seriously—about New York economics, subsidized housing, prejudice’s more socially acceptable forms and how the rent is, in the words of the sage prophets, too damn high. George and Ben are an older gay couple, friends to some and relatives to others, and Sachs and Zacharias make sure that we see every aspect of their lives in its complexity and wholeness.

There’s one slight flaw in "Love Is Strange," and at the same time, it’s substantial: we never really get a sense of exactly how long Ben and George have to impose on their friends, whether in titles or dialogue or even something as simple (and as real) as Tomei shouting at Lithgow that it’s been X amount of time and she’s had it. This may seem a small observation, but anyone who’s had—or been—a houseguest is familiar with the idea expressed in the Italian proverb that “After three days houseguests and fish both start to smell.” When you are hosting or being hosted, you keep track of every second with mental clock the size of Big Ben. Again, it’s a small thing, but it’s also exactly the thing the real-world version of this story would involve.

And even that can’t dispel the pleasures of the film completely—its gentle humanity, its heartbreaking portrait of a couple kept apart, its dry wit and completely earned tearjerking moments. Love, as the writer Carol Shields observed, is a republic, not a kingdom, with all eligible for its favors and subject to its laws. And "Love Is Strange" shows the work that living in that republic can require, and how hard it can be to keep love alive in a world where prejudice is real as rent and a quiet life of companionship can be as difficult to find and keep as an affordable apartment in Manhattan. Calling "Love Is Strange" a great gay love story is both precise and inaccurate; I doubt I’ll see a more finely performed and beautifully crafted love story, with or without any mere modifiers, up on the big screen this year. [A-]


Browse through all our coverage of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival by clicking here.

This article is related to: Sundance Film Festival, Alfred Molina, John Lithgow, Marisa Tomei, Reviews, Review, Love is Strange

E-Mail Updates


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.