Taglines: Sometimes we leave everything to find ourselves.
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.
Two Lovers is a 2008 American romantic drama film, taking its inspiration from Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s short story “White Nights”, which had already been turned into a film 7 times, first by Luchino Visconti: Le Notti Bianche (1957). The movie is directed by James Gray and stars Joaquin Phoenix, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Vinessa Shaw. It is set in the largely Russian Jewish neighborhood Brighton Beach in New York City, as was Gray’s first movie Little Odessa. Two Lovers premiered in competition at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival in May. The movie is Gray’s third to enter the competition at this festival. It was released on February 13, 2009.
About the Story
The film starts with Leonard (Phoenix) walking along a foot bridge over the Sheepshead Bay creek in Brooklyn with dry cleaning when he drops the clothing and jumps into the water in an attempted suicide. He changes his mind and surfaces to be helped by a random passersby. After walking home to his parents apartment and his mother seeing him dripping wet it becomes evident that Leonard has emotional problems and had tried to kill himself before.
His parents tell him that a potential business partner and his family are invited for dinner. When they arrive Leonard finds out that he had been set up with the other family’s daughter, Sandra (Shaw). He hits it off with Sandra and tells her how he had been engaged several years before but the relationship broke off because genetic counselling showed that he and his fiancee could not have had healthy children.
A few days later, Leonard meets a new neighbor Michelle (Paltrow) in his apartment building hall. He is immediately attracted to her and spends time with her and goes out on the town with her and her friends. He finds out that she is dating a married partner in her law firm, Ronald (Koteas). Leonard later meets Ronald and Michelle for dinner at an upscale restaurant in the city. He goes home upset but then Sandra surprises him at home where they have sex. The next day he tells Michelle he no longer wants to see her and becomes further involved in a relationship with Sandra.
After a while he is asked to photograph Sandra’s brother’s Bar Mitzvah. Afterward, Michelle calls him upset and says that she is sick. He takes Michelle to the hospital where she is treated for a miscarriage. She had not known she was pregnant. Then he takes her home and while talking to her, Ronald unexpectedly arrives. Leonard hides behind a door while Ronald apologizes to Michelle for not having come to the hospital and that he was going on a trip to London for two weeks. However, Michelle is cross with him and sends him away quickly. She then asks Leonard to console her and caress her hand until she falls asleep, which he does.
Two weeks later Michelle calls Leonard and meets him on the roof. She tells him that she has broken off the relationship with Ronald and is going to San Francisco. Leonard tells her not to go because he loves her and they make love on the roof. He later agrees that he will go with her the next day. He buys two tickets online, purchases an engagement ring, and then packs for his trip. At noon on the next day Sandra’s father talks to him offering him a partnership in the soon to be merged family businesses believing that he is going to marry Sandra.
The next day, during his parents New Year’s Eve party, Leonard ducks out to the courtyard to meet Michelle where she tells him that she isn’t going to San Francisco because Ronald had left his wife and will marry her. Distraught, Leonard heads out to the beach apparently to kill himself. As he steps in the ocean, he drops a glove that Sandra had bought for him earlier. He picks up the glove, returns to the party, and seeing Sandra gives her the ring.
Continue Reading and View the Theatrical Trailer
Two Lovers (2009)
Directed by: James Gray
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Gwyneth Paltrow, Vinessa Shaw, Isabella Rossellini, Elias Koteas, Moni Moshonov, Elliot Villar, Christian Albrizo, Donald John Hewitt, Samantha Ivers, Anne Joyce
Screenplay by: James Gray, Ric Menello
Production Design by: Happy Massee
Cinematography by: Joaquín Baca-Asay
Film Editing by: John Axelrad
Costume Design by: Michael Clancy
Set Decoration by: Carol Silverman
Art Direction by: Marc Benacerraf, Pete Zumba
MPAA Rating: R for language, some sexuality and brief drug use.
Distributed by: Magnolia Pictures
Release Date: February 13, 2009