Set in the insular world of Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, Two Lovers is a classic romantic drama, with Joaquin Phoenix giving a raw and vulnerable performance as Leonard, 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 (Isabella Rossellini and Moni Monoshov), Leonard meets two women in quick succession: Michelle (Gwyneth Paltrow), a mysterious and beautiful neighbor who is exotic and out-of-place in Leonard’s staid world, and Sandra, the lovely and caring daughter of a businessman who is buying out his family’s dry-cleaning business.
Leonard becomes deeply infatuated by Michelle, who seems poised to fall for him, but is having a self-destructive affair with a married man. At the same time, mounting pressure from his family pushes him towards committing to Sandra. Leonard is forced to make an impossible decision between the impetuousness of desire and the comfort of love or risk falling back into the darkness that nearly killed him.
What better city for a love triangle filled drama/romance to take place than New York City? It’s a city known for engulfing people within its landscape, night life, and unlimited choices. Leonard (Phoenix), is a broken hearted man in his 30’s who moves back in with his parents following a spoiled engagement. He’s tried several times to end his life, but his lack of effort shows that he may just want the attention. Then suddenly, his life does a complete turn around as he meets not one, but two beautiful and intriguing women. His parents go to the trouble of trying to set him up with a friend’s daughter named Sandra (Shaw). He’s reluctant at first to meet someone new, but slowly he lets her into his world. At almost the exact same moment, he wanders into the beautiful tenant Michelle (Paltrow), living next door in his apartment building. Each woman has some things to offer, yet has a few flaws that seem to keep him from making a decision. Will Leonard be able to make a choice between the two lovely ladies before they change their interest? He’ll have to weigh his options, to make sure he doesn’t wind up as the one stuck out in the cold this time around.
After seeing We Own the Night and loving it so much, I was psyching myself up for the next chapter in James Gray’s resume. Unfortunately, this happened to be one of the worst movies I’ve seen in quite a while. Joaquin Phoenix chose a good time to play a down and out, broken hearted miscreant. Gwyneth Paltrow owes it to herself not to play such lifeless characters like her wise choice in this one. The plot was like a stagnant soap opera that was waiting to be put to sleep. When you watch this script unravel before your eyes, you are left asking yourself, “This is it?” I promise you that after viewing this disaster piece theater, you’ll understand why Phoenix has been seen with a full crazy man’s beard, rapping in shady night clubs, and having what people in Hollywood call a “Spears vacation.”
Review by Charlie Giltenboth