Two lines into each character and we already know what kind of people they want to depict but it never feels like the director has any clue of how they're minds could work. The depression, the bipolar disease, the wealthy middle aged that doesn't leave his wife, the addict, the class differences between the characters... all these very stong elements belong to the story but we never feel them or believe in them.
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.
Une exceptionnelle interprétation de l'incontournable Joaquin Phoenix, dans une oeuvre puissante et somptueuse sur la fragilité des coeurs et les désastres affectifs, traversée par une infinie tristesse et d'indicibles doutes existentiels qu'entretiennent avec constance, sagacité et férocité nos imprévisibles et navrants égarements émotionnels... www.cinefiches.com
(...)Die meisten von uns würden an einem bestimmten (unreifen) Punkt unseres Lebens auch Michelle vergöttern: Sie ist schön und charmant mit einem gewinnendem Lächeln. Sie hat aber keine innere Ruhe (...) Vermutlich sieht Leonard sich selbst als die Lösung ihrer Probleme. Es gibt aber ein Verständnisproblem seinerseits: Er verwechselt, dass sie ihn braucht damit, dass sie ihn liebt (...)
Jeremy Carr wrote "poignant melodrama and carefully considered art film, without any pretention whatsoever." Sadly I find just the opposite...melodramatic yes but hardly poignant. Neither carefully considered nor art. And heavily pretentious. You never forget that Joaquin Phoenix is Joaquin Phoenix or that Gwyneth Paltrow is Gwyneth Paltrow. Both actors wearing shallow characters going through the motions.
I've yet to be convinced of Gray's brilliance (The Yards is still my favorite of his work). This film was uneven, especially in the characterization of Leonard, who seems to be two people (but not convincingly so). The most true and powerful portrayal is of the two women. The last thirty minutes are painful (in a good way) and almost elevate the film to a higher level.
My 2nd Gray film after The Immigrant. I loved this film, especially the way timing (as relationships typically are) makes victims of the 3 key players. Phoenix shows his acting prowess by toeing the line between regular Joe, socially awkward, and a bit crazy. While he may one day wish to have drowned, his sham of a relationship, ring & commitment, is based on lucky/unlucky timing. It's a fascinating journey.
I enjoyed the acting in this film by everyone but Gwyneth Paltrow. Her character, such as it was, seemed too two dimensional. Maybe it is just me, but somehow her performance seemed to detract from the rest of the film, so at the end I felt it would have been a much better film without her. Visually, it is a sumptuous film, beautifully captured and edited with great care. Overall, engaging and revelatory.
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.