Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Life is strange .... (and so is love)

Finally, LOVE IS STRANGE - which has just recently limped into London and with no award nominations, I can see why now .... It was shown here initially last October at the BFI Londn Film Festival and seems the last of the Festival's big ones to open here, and is not on many screens, so I got the American dvd.
Looking at it now it seems like a two hour movie that has been chopped down to 90+ minute, as various strands seem rushed or ignored, as we follow the saga of Ben and George having to live separately after 39 years together .....

After nearly four decades together, Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) finally tie the knot in an idyllic wedding ceremony in lower Manhattan. But when George loses his job teaching music (at a Cathlic school) soon after, the couple must sell their apartment and - victims of the relentless New York City real estate market - temporarily live apart until they can find an affordable new home. While George moves in with two cops (Cheyenne Jackson and Manny Perez) who live down stairs, Ben lands in Brooklyn with his nephew (Darren Burrows), his wife (Marisa Tomei), and their temperamental teenage son (Charlie Tahan), with whom Ben shares a bedroom and bunk beds. While struggling with the pain of separation, Ben and George are further challenged by the family dynamics of their new living arrangements.

Well yes, there's all that, and its great seeing Molina (playing gay again - check out his Kenneth Halliwell in PRICK UP YOUR EARS (right) with Gary Oldman as Joe Orton in 1987, I really must go back and re-see that...) and Lithgow being so perfectly in tune with each other here, they are old friends, and it shows. The story though is problematic and rather becomes an excruciating comedy of embarrassment as they start to annoy the friends they are staying with - rather like that excruciating old couple in Capra's MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW back in 1937 (1930s label). 
Several things puzzle: After 39 years they have no savings or pension funds or things they could sell to pay that mortgage. They have lived there for over 20 years but only owned for the last five, and want to sell before the 5-year deadline so only come away with $17,500? Didn't they understand that initially?  Why not leave expensive Manhattan? And why proceed with the wedding when he had signed that agreement when he took the job with the Catholic school - could he not sue them? So, all these questions, and then Ben is getting older, at 71 ..... and has heart problems.  The question of their possessions is not addressed, presumably its all in storage until they get a new apartment (I put my stufff in storage back in 1998 when moving house, for a period that turned out to be 15 months!).

SPOILER AHEAD: Yes, it is one of those dramas where one of the gay couple dies at the end - cue the old lesbians in CLOUDBURST, and that first EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL which I loathed, as per my review - 2000s/gay interest labels - where the gay character summarily drops dead after his story arc, as presumably they could think of nothing else to do with him - couldn't he have continued living in India like the straight people?  I suppose they mean to convey that nothing in life is permanent ....

Back to LOVE IS STRANGE. pleased to have finally seen it, but it raises more questions than it answers (particularly regarding that teenage son Joey and his friend Vlad). Directed and co-written by Ira Sachs, whose cast serves him well, Marisa Tomei is spot-on too as the novelist who keeps going on about her writing and whom poor Ben keeps interrupting ... after that nicely written and played scene where a rent-controlled apartment suddenly falls into George's lap, as he chats to Tim, that nice English guy at the cop's disco party (who just happens to be relocating to Mexico), we have a final scene with Ben and George at a concert and at a bar afterwards as they stroll back to the subway and part - it seems they have not moved into the new apartment yet. 
Then in an Antonioni kind of finale, the film moves away from George and Ben and becomes all about young Joey - arriving to see George at the new apartment, after Ben's funeral, and he produces - from nowhere - Ben's last unfinished painting, and we stay with Joey crying on the stairs for for what seems like a few minutes, before he goes skate-boarding with a girl at sunset .... its as though the story moves from the older generation to the younger, taking in the middle-aged folk (Joey's parents) as well. 
The dvd has a useful Q&A with the cast and director at the end, as well as commentaries by the actors, etc. 

Another LOVE IS STRANGE: We also caught a 1999 tele-movie on dvd, another LOVE IS STRANGE purely as it featured our great favourite Julie Harris in a good role as Kate Nelligan's wilful Irish mother. In this (rather superior it has to be said) tearfest Kate is a busness woman who finds she is dying of cancer and rights to right wrongs between her ex husband and son. 

Supporting programme: some gay shorts

GLOBAL WARMING, 2012. This collection of 4 gay shorts by Reid Waterer is worth a look – as we go from Bollywood to Hollywood, via London, India, Greece, Croatia and USA. PERFORMANCE ANXIETY is an amusing fifteen minutes as we see  two attractive straight actors (Danny Lopes and Lawrence Nichols) get ready to film an explicit gay scene as they try to get used to each other and block out how to play it. 
Set in India YOU CAN’T CURRY LOVE is irresistibly likeable (and provides a tour of India); DADDY’S BIG GIRL (a bitter woman vs. her gay dad) and FOREIGN RELATIONS (an award holiday tour romance) are more uneven but each tackles gay issues head on. An amusing supporting package then. 

That concludes our gay mini-festival, before the BFI's annual Flare festival this month (which opens with I AM MICHAEL).


  1. Not having seen LOVE IS STRANGE yet my only comment is that you and I are never going to see eye to eye over MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW. :)

  2. I too was horribly disappointed with Love Is Strange, and at it's conclusion found myself thinking it was another version of Make Way For Tomorrow, which I loathed -- I couldn't buy into the setup of either movie, and consequently had no emotional investment in ihe characters' predicament.