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Two Lovers

Year: 2008
Production Co: 2929 Productions
Director: James Gray
Producer: James Gray
Writer: James Gray
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Gwyneth Paltrow, Vinessa Shaw, Isabella Rosselini, Elias Koteas

Is this really Joaquin Phoenix's last movie? He's not attached to any more films as I write this, and following his celebrity meltdown moment on Letterman he's become a virtual recluse. But as everyone's been saying, he'll be missed from the world of film if this is what he can do.

What makes Gray's story of a young man and the tussles in his heart between two women so interesting is that there's no strict antagonist. Nobody is out to do any harm to anyone else and everyone just wants to be happy. Even more interestingly, there's no high stakes climax where the desires of the characters collide to create a win/lose equation.

There are no screaming matches, no real disharmony or discord and no moments of painful realisation. The only anguish is entirely within the soul of Leonard (Phoenix), a young Brooklyn man with a history of depressive illness who finds himself torn between two women.

One is the pretty, stable and decent daughter (Shaw) of the family looking to buy his parent's dry cleaning business, the other is the anchorless party girl from his apartment building (Paltrow). The two are like the choice between stability and passion, but the script gives both girls so much dimension and humanity of their own it's not even close to being that simple.

Added to Leonard's pressures are the worries of his loving parents who wonder when he'll do something rash. Fantastic casting and a great script are all Gray needs to make this an affecting and beautiful film.

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