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 indie drama stars Joaquin Phoenix and Gwyneth Paltrow but is not a teen-oriented romance. The movie covers several mature themes like alienation, unrequited love, suicidal tendencies, and how parents relate to their adult children. There are two sex scenes, including a bare breast; very coarse language (more than 30 "F" bombs); and an apparent suicide attempt.
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What's the story?
With its provocative title and Valentine's weekend opening, TWO LOVERS might sound like a perfect film for date night. But the James Gray indie is far from romantic. Joaquin Phoenix plays Leonard, a bi-polar loner still living with his parents in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. Despite his suicidal tendencies, he's successfully set up with Sandra (Vinessa Shaw), the lovely daughter of his parents' dry-cleaning business partners. She's a nice Jewish girl who just wants to take care of him, but he's, as they say, not that into her. Instead, Leonard's hot for Michelle (Gwyneth Paltrow), the blond, co-dependent kept woman who lives in his building.
Is it any good?
Although several critics have praised the film's cinematography and Phoenix's vulnerability, there's little redeeming the drama from its infuriating, often ridiculous flaws. Whether it's the fact the actors are all clearly a decade older than their characters (and with the exception of lesser-known Shaw, unable to pull off early-20-somethings) or that neither of Leonard's relationships is at all compelling, this self-indulgent character study is just plain boring -- not to mention frustrating to watch.
Phoenix plays mopey well but Paltrow is unconvincingly flaky and poor Shaw's character is just uninteresting. The film features a stand-out supporting cast (Isabella Rossellini, Moni Moshonov, Elias Koteas and Bob Ari), but the central love triangle is such a bust it crushes every other aspect of the film under its dead weight. By the time Paltrow calls her laughable two-minute quickie (two weeks post-D&C!) with Phoenix "beautiful" and bares her breast to him across a courtyard, you'll wish you'd stayed home and prepared your taxes rather than finish this boring treatise on unrequited love and urban loserdom.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the way Leonard's two relationships affect him. How is he different with Sandra than with Michelle?
What genre is this movie?
Was it expressive or boring?
The characters all seem much younger than the actors. Are the actors believable playing people in their early 20s?
- In theaters: February 13, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: June 30, 2009
- Cast: Gwyneth Paltrow, Isabella Rossellini, Joaquin Phoenix
- Director: James Gray
- Studio: Magnolia Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 110 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: for language, some sexuality and brief drug use
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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