Friday, June 12, 2015

Love is Strange

Directed by Ira Sachs and written by Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias, Love is Strange is the story of a recently-married gay couple who are forced to live separately due to financial issues as they each deal with their new surroundings. The film is an exploration into same-sex marriage where two men who want to be together find themselves being forced to live apart and find homes with the aid of family and friends. Starring John Lithgow, Alfred Molina, Marisa Tomei, Charlie Tahan, and Cheyenne Jackson. Love is Strange is a touching and engaging film from Ira Sachs.

The film plays into two men who finally marry after being together for 40 years as they’re forced to live apart when one of them loses his job and financial issues would force the situation where the two would live among family and friends. It’s a film that plays into the world of two men who love each other as circumstances beyond their control force them to move out of their apartment and live with other people while trying to find a new home. There, the separation takes a toll on not just these two men but also the friends and family that give them a place to live. The film’s screenplay explores the dynamics of two men in different living situations as the painter Ben (John Lithgow) would live with his nephew Elliot (Darren Burrows) and his family while the music teacher George (Alfred Molina) would live with neighbors in a couple of gay cops.

It’s a situation that isn’t just tense but also quite strange as Ben finds himself chatting with Elliot’s wife Kate (Marisa Tomei) while rooming with her teenage son Joey (Charlie Tahan) who is going through growing pains. For George, living with Ted (Cheyenne Jackson) and Roberto (Manny Perez) becomes uneasy as Ted and Roberto often hold parties where George just wants something quiet. It creates not just a world where two men really long for each other but are hoping to adjust to their living situations hoping that it is temporary until they can find an affordable home. It’s a script that doesn’t have a lot of plot but rather rely more on characters and the environment they’re in as Ben and George are just two men who have been through a lot and aren’t sure if they can take another lifetime of just not being together.

Ira Sachs’ direction doesn’t feature a lot of stylistic shots but does contain some very interesting and mesmerizing compositions. Shot largely on location in New York City, Sachs goes for something that is very intimate as it’s more about the story rather than a certain landmark that is often seen in New York City. With a lot of close-ups and medium shots, Sachs maintains something that starts off lively until George’s firing where it becomes a bit more serious with some low-key humor. Sachs knows where to frame his actors for scenes which would play into the tension surrounding Ben and his nephew’s family where Ben feels like he is intruding. The scenes involving George living with his neighbors show a sense of awkwardness into how old he is and how young his neighbors are where Sachs knows where to place the camera. The scenes of Ben and George together do show a spark of life such as a scene late in the film of the two at a bar which definitely says a lot about their relationship without really saying anything. Overall, Sachs creates a mesmerizing and compelling story about a gay couple struggling to live apart.

Cinematographer Christos Voudouris does excellent work with the cinematography to capture the look of the outside exteriors in the day including a skyline that Ben is trying to paint. Editor Affonso Goncalves and Michael Taylor do terrific work with the editing as it‘s very straightforward with a few stylistic cuts including a montage of George talking about his firing to his former students. Production designer Amy Williams, with set decorator Kendall Anderson and art director Steve Grise, does fantastic work with the look of the different apartments from the quaint look of the old apartment Ben and George lived in to the more spacious but unsettling home that Ben would live in with his nephew and his family.

Costume designer Arjun Bhasin does nice work with the costumes as it‘s mostly casual with the exception of a few stylish clothes that Ben and George wear. Visual effects supervisor Lucien Harriot does good work with the minimal visual effects as it relates to the view that Ben is painting. Sound designer Kent Sparling does superb work with the sound to create some montages for George‘s letter to his student as well as creating something that feels natural though there‘s moments where some of the music on location does overwhelm the dialogue. Music supervisor Susan Jacobs creates a wonderful soundtrack that includes contemporary music as well as classical pieces by Chopin and Beethoven as much of it is played on location and on set.

The casting by Avy Kaufman is amazing as it features some notable small performances from John Cullum as George’s former boss who would fire him, Harriet Sansom Harris as a lesbian cop friend of Ted and Roberto, Christina Kirk as a family friend named Mindy who has a home in upstate New York, Christian Coulson as a young man George would meet at a party, Eric Tabach as Joey’s friend Vlad who would befriend Ben, and Manny Perez as the gay cop Roberto. Cheyenne Jackson is terrific as Ben and George’s neighbor Ted who is also a gay cop that would introduce George to Game of Thrones as well as his world of parties that George isn’t comfortable with. Darren Burrows is superb as Ben’s nephew Elliot who copes with the new situation as well as his son’s growing pains while often being away at work.

Charlie Tahan is excellent as Elliot and Kate’s teenage son Joey who copes with the living situation as he starts to act out while dealing with his own growing pains. Marisa Tomei is fantastic as Elliot’s wife who adores Ben and George but becomes annoyed with the living situation as she tries to get her own work done while helping Ben in finding a home for him and George. Finally, there’s Alfred Molina and John Lithgow in remarkable performances in their respective roles as George and Ben. Molina provides a melancholia as George who copes with his own living situation while dealing with the loss of his job as a Catholic school music teacher as Molina maintains a low-key yet evocative performance. Lithgow provides a liveliness to the role of Ben as a painter who is trying to cope with being separated as well as getting old where Lithgow displays some humility and the ability to be the quiet observer as it relates to his own family.

Love is Strange is a marvelous film from Ira Sachs that features great performances from John Lithgow and Alfred Molina. Along with a great supporting cast led by Marisa Tomei, the film is a delightful and heartwarming comedy-drama that explores the relationship of two men as they cope with being apart due to a very complicated situation. In the end, Love is Strange is a sensational film from Ira Sachs.

Ira Sachs Films: (The Delta) - (Forty Shades of Blue) - (Married Life) - (Keep the Lights On)

© thevoid99 2015

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