Two Lovers (2009) [Blu-ray]

Genre(s): Drama
Magnolia || R - 110 minutes - $34.98 || June 30, 2009
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2009-07-20


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

.:: V I D E O ::.
Video

.:: A U D I O ::.
Audio

B L U - R A Y
.:: EXCLUSIVES ::.

Blu-ray Exclusives

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: James Gray
Writer(s): James Gray & Richard Menello (written by)
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Gwyneth Paltrow, Vinessa Shaw, Isabella Rossellini, Elias Koteas


Theatrical Release Date: February 13, 2009


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • Feature Commentary
  • 2 Featurettes
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Photo Gallery


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Widescreen (2.40)
  • English (DTS-HD MA 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

Plot: Leonard is a charismatic but troubled young man, who moves back into his childhood home following a recent heartbreak. While recovering under the watchful eye of his parents, Leonard meets two women in quick succession: Michelle, a mysterious and beautiful neighbor who is exotic and out of place in Leonardís staid world, and Sandra, the lovely and caring daughter of a businessman who is buying out his familyís dry-cleaning business. Leonard becomes deeply infatuated by Michelle, while mounting pressure from his family pushes him towards committing to Sandra. Leonard is forced to make a difficult decision between the impetuousness of desire, comfort of love, or risk retreating back into heartbreak.

Iím of two minds about writer/director James Grayís latest drama, Two Lovers. On the one hand, Joaquin Phoenix gives a great performance that, while I have seen better from him in the past, he still manages to turn what could be a pathetic character into someone who is at least relatable. The Leonard character is in his early 30s, lives at home (due to a mental breakdown) yet still manages to find some sort of attraction from a hot, but wild, neighbor played by Gwyneth Paltrow. Then you have Paltrowís character that is a bit reckless, having an affair with a married man (Elias Koteas in a small role) and has no consideration for Leonardís feelings. Itís a good dramatic dynamic, no doubt, but at the same time, how these characters acted lead to my main issue with the film.

The screenplay and how these characters were written never really added up. I get the character motivations and I also get that the line between being loved and happiness can be on one end of the spectrum from the other; they donít necessarily go hand in hand. Thatís fine and very realistic for anyone who has been torn from the ďbad girl/boyĒ to that person who you Ďshouldí be with. My problem comes from the fact the two main characters were written like immature adolescent teenagers. Obviously even when we grow older, we tend to keep childish behaviors (just go into any workplace or watch a session of Congress on CSPAN), but the Leonard and Michelle characters were a bit much since both are in their early to mid 30s...

In any case, outside of some choice issues with the screenplay, I still managed to enjoy the film for its dramatic moments and the true-to-life tug-of-war of life and love. For his supposedly final theatrical film, Phoenix gives a poignant performance that when setting aside the immature/teenage moments, strikes a balance of sadness, charm and a road to possible self destruction as the character becomes more and more infatuated with the chaotic woman.

Gwyneth Paltrow and Vinessa Shaw also give nice performances though I was more impressed with Shaw for fleshing out a character that wasnít as developed as the other two. Her character is more adult by comparison and she conveys the part of the woman who loves Leonard in spite of his dramatic past, even though Leonard only appreciates the love on the surface after he still pines for Michelle.

Overall, Two Lovers excels because of Joaquin Phoenix and at the very least, a reasonable realistic story that only falters from some unrealistic character development.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

Feature Commentary Ė Co-Writer/Director James Gray provides an insightful commentary on the movie, where the idea came from, getting the cast together and other tidbits. I think adding someone else in the booth wouldíve made this a more interesting track. Be forwarned, he does come across a bit full of himself so it may not be for everyone. Also note, the track is accessible via the audio submenu not through features.

Behind the Scenes (7:04) Ė This is your typical making-of featurette with a good portion showing scenes from the movie (in very poor quality I might add) while the director and other cast members explains the story and why itís unique.

Deleted Scenes (9:22) Ė There are three scenes that were no doubt cut out for time and story considerations. Not much to miss.

HDNet: A Look at Two Lovers (4:32) is just a promotional piece for the film equipped with critic quotes, more footage and comments from the cast and crew. Youíre getting the same info as the stuff in the other featurette.

Last up is a basic photo gallery.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

Two Lovers I donít think was meant for Blu-ray. Although the detail level was OK, I did notice from the beginning some banding issues as the movie begins with underwater shots where the shades of blue donít mend in with the others very well. Thereís also the problem of a good amount of grain in most, if not all, of the scenes. Anyway, the movie is presented in its original 2.40 aspect ratio and in 1080p high-definition.

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track isnít bad but itís terribly average compared to other Blu-rays. Thereís a fair amount of dialogue with a motion score providing any depth to the track. I could understand what everyone was saying so I canít complain too much.



.::OVERALL::.

Outside of the writing of the characters as adolescent teenagers, the story itself actually is pretty good and different from other romantic dramas that have before. It also has a certain Woody Allen approach to the story as well minus his unique dialogue. Now, the Blu-ray isnít all well packed but since it didnít make much of a splash at the box office, the fact it got anything is welcomed.