Oct 14

“Love Is Strange”: Long-Term Gay Couple Face Obstacles

[The] ironic title refers to all tough relationships, including the one that the characters have with New York City. Joe McGovern, ew.com, about Love Is Strange

Love Is Strange, directed by Ira Sachs and starring John Lithgow and Alfred Molina, tells an unusual story and does so in a way that’s earning many accolades from critics and other viewers, including me.

The plot according to Time Out:

Chatty painter Ben (Lithgow) and his music-teacher partner of nearly four decades, George (Molina), tie the knot in an idyllic, understated ceremony…George’s Catholic academy is forced to fire him and, only weeks after celebrating, the couple find themselves cash poor, unable to maintain a mortgage and out of their elegant apartment. ‘Are you guys getting divorced already?’ jokes the assembled clan when they break the news and ask for temporary shelter. Ben goes to his nephew’s family (and a teen’s bunk bed) while George crashes on the couch of a younger gay cop’s boisterous party pad.

The trailer:

BEN AND GEORGE

Boyd van Hoeij, Hollywood Reporter: “Sachs and co-writer Mauricio Zachariasget the familiar humor and half-evoked memories that are so typical of long-term relationships exactly right, and a short scene in a historic gay bar is not only funny and real but also casually reveals some of the core values that have kept this couple going for all these years.”

Peter Debruge, Variety: “More important than the challenges of living with others is the enormous difficulty of trying to live apart, however temporary the arrangement. In depicting that struggle — illustrated through lovesick evenings spent alone and unapologetically affectionate reunions — ‘Love Is Strange’ poignantly makes the case for the validity of Ben and George’s relationship.”

SOME OF THE SUPPORTING CHARACTERS

Peter Debruge, Variety: “Although the couple’s friends and family are far from homophobic, living in such close quarters certainly strains their tolerance of one another. As Ben confides to George by phone one evening, ‘Sometimes when you live with people, you know them better than you care to.'”

Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out: “…(I)t’s sullen child actor Charlie Tahan who nearly steals the picture in a quietly devastating climax, a private breakdown that suggests Ben and George may have affected everyone more deeply than they know.”

SELECTED REVIEWS

Andrew O’Hehir, Salon: “…’Love Is Strange’ is a blend of gentle comedy and romantic tragedy, a subtly woven multigenerational tapestry about love and sorrow, the families we’re born with and the ones we make for ourselves, the things that pass away forever and the things that endure and are passed along. There’s nothing particularly gay or straight about those questions, which I suppose is the point.”

Dana Stevens, Slate: “Much has been written about these two actors’ physical comfort with one another, as if to express surprise that two straight men would be able to so convincingly play two highly emo gay guys in love. But Lithgow and Molina play Ben and George with such depth, tenderness, and history that their affection for one another’s bodies (there’s no sex, but loads of snuggling) seems like a natural extension of their pleasure in being together.”

Ann Hornaday, Washington Post: “‘Love Is Strange’ turns out to be a subtle, sidelong coming-of-age and letting-go-of-age story, a lyrical ode to longing and passion that were there all along, had we only noticed. Attention is duly paid in this tender and touching film; the strangest thing about ‘Love Is Strange’ is how completely un-strange it is, from its familiar family dynamics to its exquisite honesty and compassion.”

Sep 28

“Keep the Lights On”: Illuminating Codependency in a Gay Couple

I’ve been reading some generally great reviews for a new movie, Keep the Lights OnDan Heching, e.g., of NEXT Magazine: “Forget Brokeback Mountain; Keep the Lights On is the grittiest and most heartbreaking gay love story of our times.”

Keep the Lights On is based on the true story of the past relationship between New York literary agent Bill Clegg, who has written a couple books about his serious drug addictions, and the film’s director, Ira Sachs. The website indicates that characters Erik (Thure Lindhardt), a filmmaker, and Paul (Zachary Booth), a closeted lawyer, “meet through a casual encounter, but soon find a deeper connection and become a couple. Individually and together, they are risk takers – compulsive, and fueled by drugs and sex. In an almost decade-long relationship defined by highs, lows, and dysfunctional patterns, Erik struggles to negotiate his own boundaries and dignity while being true to himself.”

Watch the trailer below:

Andrew O’HehirSalon, acknowledges: “…(T)his movie may test how far the gay community has come on issues of self-representation. While it seems unlikely that bigots and homophobes would actively seek this film out (except, you know, on the sly and stuff), any who do see it could certainly cherry-pick details to support the thesis that Erik’s entire cadre of humanity are degenerates.”

David Lewis, San Francisco Chronicle, on the codependent relationship of Erik and Paul: “It’s a volatile combination for a couple: One man is addicted to love, the other to crack cocaine.”

Ed Gonzalez, Slant, offers an interesting example of the addiction dynamics: “…(T)his is a naked confession about addiction—not so much about the using, but using as a weapon and how the user exploits the love and guilt of others to not get better. And the essence of this study of addiction is distilled into one detail: Erik’s obsession with the photograph of a woman who appears haunted in the face, almost as if she’s seen a ghost, though really her agonized reaction resulted from just having missed a train.”

How does this play out? “Paul will strike some two-faced poses throughout Keep the Lights On, one during a dinner in which Erik, in front of a roomful of people, applauds Paul for seeking help for his drug problem. Paul smiles, though you sense he’s more embarrassed than charmed and may use this moment against his lover. Erik doesn’t see the truth behind the mask, not because he’s naïve, but for the same reason the photograph of the woman transfixes him: Like Paul, it tells a beautiful lie.”

See it if you can—and then let me know what you think.