Monday, 15 June 2009
It's love triangle time, as Leonard (Joaquin Phoenix) returns to New York and his Jewish parents after a relationship break-up that - together with his bipolar disorder - has left him occasionally suicidal, only to find two women vying for his heart. Well, maybe "vying" isn't the right word: Sandra (Vinessa Shaw) is the nice Jewish girl his parents set him up with, only it doesn't take much reading between the lines to notice that she was the one with her eye firmly on him even before his parents played matchmaker. Problem is, his new neighbour Michelle (Gwyneth Paltrow) has caught his eye, and he finds himself increasingly drawn to her despite the fact she's currently having an affair with a married man and might just be a little too fond of the drugs.
Director James Gray manages to keep a fairly straightforward love triangle tale interesting with a story that's frayed at the edges - not everything here actually means something, so there's plenty of elements you might expect to turn into something more that just end up being part of the texture of their lives. Phoenix gives yet another compelling performance, while both female leads make an impact. Unfortunately towards the end the rails the plot is running on start to become obvious, and the conclusion becomes obvious three or four scenes beforehand. But this is a film that's as much about mood and tone as it is how the romance ends up, and on that level this will stay with you long after the final scene.
Anthony Morris (this review appeared in Forte #455)