Sam Goldwyn said "A Jew can't play a Jew. It wouldn't look right on screen." Crass words from the legendary studio mogul, but in Joaquin's case he is right. Israeli TV comic Moni Moshonov is also miscast, his phony accent is awful. Isabella Rossellini, however, is great as a Jewish immigrant. 3.5 stars, not bad if you like love movies.
The drama initially plays out indifferently. The Phoenix and Paltrow characters aren't necessarily unlikable, but they seem to undergo one-track motions for sympathy. It's hard to warm up to them, perhaps because their pitied side outweighs their positive qualities. The last half hour of this film is utterly powerful and emotionally complex, partly perhaps, because it was all a lead up to it.
You think you want the shiksa goddess, but you don't. "What're you? One of those reader types?"
Gwenneth cannot portray anything besides herself, a very superficial person. They are both very annoying people in real life, which gets in their way of trying to portray sympathetic people. Everything else about the movie is definitely above average.
Something in particular that strikes me about this film: Two Lovers harkens to a doomed teen romance, in a sense. Here is Leonard, a man child, struggling to create a life independent from his parents (rebellion!). However, his attempts to break free from familial obligations are continually marred by his stunted maturity (teen!). Also, this is the first film I've actually liked Gwyneth Paltrow in. Yes, remarkable.
I experienced this film as superficial and tedious in its synthetic depiction and reductive dismissal of the reality of experience in life of men with Leonard’s CV and how others respond to them. I’m surprised so many have fawned over it and found it “honest”. I thought it was hollow, phoney and unconvincing, an emperor with no clothes indeed. 2.5/5
James Gray shows us, with the most classic and therefore the most modern filmmaking of today, the good gone days. Old values we thought were gone from our world forever. People come out of the shadows - to love or to destroy, no one filmed them with so much respect and care before. In the end, the full room becomes empty with the strongest embrace of cinema's history.
In its utter simplicity, its romantic vibe, and urban maelström, "Two Lovers" is for me James Gray's masterpiece. But really, all of his films are, in fact. He's like Fincher for me: flawless filmography so far.
Now or never will I ever understand the great appreciation for this film by so many respectable film colleagues. Flimsy plot, boring conflict, awkward direction... save for the excellent perf from Phoenix and some expertly lit scenes, this film is downright average. Perhaps below that.