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Feast of Love
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this well-meaning drama tries to offer some positive (and somewhat clichéd) life lessons -- support your friends and family, love is the answer, etc. But it deals with mature issues (infidelity, abuse, addiction), and has a fair amount of nudity (breasts, backsides, and one fleeting full-frontal glimpse) and graphic sex. Language, while not incessant, is also strong, including "s--t" and "f--k." In one particularly disturbing moment, a man hits a woman (and vice versa), with no apparent consequences; in fact, he wins out in the end.
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What's the story?
Based on the novel by Charlie Baxter and directed by Robert Benton (of Kramer vs. Kramer fame), FEAST OF LOVE traces the misadventures of Bradley (Greg Kinnear) -- a Portland, Oregon, café owner with a knack for falling in love with the wrong women -- and his extended network of friends and colleagues, who also find themselves in their own existential and romantic predicaments (some contrived, some touching). Bradley's problem is that he doesn't "see" his mates for who they are. His first wife, Kathryn (a winning Selma Blair), makes eyes at another woman, a flirtation Bradley misses entirely but which is duly noted by his friend and loyal customer, Harry (the too-often-dignified Morgan Freeman). Within weeks, Kathryn and Bradley divorce. Lesson learned? Not quite, as Bradley soon moves onto Diana (Radha Mitchell), aka Ms. Wrong No. 2. Unfortunately, Diana appears to have no problem continuing her affair with a married man despite marrying Bradley. But all that's still not enough, apparently: Oscar (Toby Hemingway), Bradley's barista, falls instantly in love with Chloe (Alexa Davalos, in a breakout performance), a passerby who asks for a job (and is preposterously hired, even though she doesn't drink coffee). The movie wastes no time in establishing their fairy-tale romance. They move in together in no time -- and, almost as quickly, reveals a tragic twist. And then there's Harry himself, a gentle soul burdened by his son's untimely death but with a loving wife as his saving grace.
Is it any good?
Feast of Love is like an intriguing dish that seems so promising on the menu, yet when it arrives at your table manages to satiate but not satisfy. Full of good intentions and interesting detours, the film benefits from its strong ensemble cast, but it ambles too much and doesn't quite deliver on its intriguing premises: Is love a burden? Can love save people from their worst selves? Who's better off -- those who fall in love too easily or rarely? Although he talks of wisdom by the time he meets Woman to Love No. 3, Bradley seems to have learned little. (One slightly gruesome scene is meant to show how he's been scarred, but it rings hollow).
The film could also have done without Oscar's prototypical bad dad (played by Fred Ward); an abusive alcoholic, he also threatens Chloe at one point with a knife. Just one of those evils would've been plenty. And the only truly gritty storyline (Diana and her married man) is glossed over in the end, going so far as to have them traipsing off into the sunset even after a particularly brutal physical fight.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the film's take on love. Is it really as messy as it seems here? Why are so many movies fixated on the difficulties of love? Is romance only entertaining when it's not meant to be? Or, on the flip side, why is love so often idealized as well? What are real relationships like? Families can also discuss the consequences of the characters' behavior. What do you think would have happened to them in real life?
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