3.5 stars. Rated R, and rather harshly, for occasional profanity
By Derrick Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 9.26.14
As first-world challenges go, few can be more heartbreaking than the turmoil sometimes created by our nobler instincts.
|On the morning of their official nuptials, George (Alfred Molina, left) assures Ben (John|
Lithgow) that yes, they will make it to the appointed place on time ... even if they're not
able to hail a taxi.
We like to believe that we’re capable of helping people — particularly friends and family members — much the way we’d hope to be helped, under similar circumstances. The uncomfortable truth, however, is that benevolence generally extends only so far, and no farther ... and then most people are too polite to confront what has become an intolerable situation.
And so the kettle bubbles, until it boils over: the initial generous act inevitably overwhelmed by hurtful confrontations that cannot be taken back, leaving bruised feelings all around.
Put simply, and to quote a telling line from Ira Sachs’ painfully intimate new film, “When you live with people, you know them better than you care to.”
The speaker is Ben (John Lithgow), whose life has taken a disappointing turn: such a letdown, from the radiant happiness he enjoyed only a few weeks earlier.
Sachs and co-scripter Mauricio Zacharias open Love Is Strange on a triumphant event: After having lived together for 39 years, Ben and George (Alfred Molina) joyfully tie the knot, thanks to New York’s new marriage laws. The morning of, the two men are a study in contrast: Ben, artistic and nervous, fusses over every detail; George, practical and calm, knows that all will be well.
They share both the service and subsequent celebratory party with close friends and family: Ben’s nephew Elliot (Darren E. Burrows), his wife Kate (Marisa Tomei) and their teenage son Joey (Charlie Tahan); Ted (Cheyenne Jackson) and Roberto (Manny Perez), the gay New York cops who live together downstairs; and numerous other well-wishers.
Kate makes a truly charming, heartfelt speech: brimming with love.
The elation doesn’t last long.
Ben doesn’t really have a job; he dabbles at painting. George, the primary breadwinner, teaches private music lessons but earns the bulk of their income from his longtime job as choir master at a local Catholic school. Unfortunately, although all concerned have known and tolerated George’s sexual orientation during his entire 12-year stint at this school, the marriage is an “official” act that cannot be condoned by the Catholic hierarchy.
George is summarily dismissed. Absent that income, he and Ben no longer can afford their apartment, nor — thanks to New York’s relentless real estate market — can they find another place to live. They reluctantly call a family meeting and present this news, hoping for the group to offer a stopgap, if not a solution.
The resulting silence, as the various implications settle, is merely the first of this film’s many gut-wrenching moments.