Gay relationship movies almost never make it into the mainstream. And they almost never attract A-list stars. The exception is "Love is Strange," a beautifully acted film with amazing performances from it's two leads.
Starring John Lithgow and Alfred Molina, "Love is Strange" is about their characters', Ben and George respectively, long-term relationship, together for 39 years. They are finally legally allowed to marry and do so surrounded by friends and family. They live in a cosy Manhattan apartment, but things start to fall apart when Ben loses his job as a Catholic school music teacher when word of his marriage reaches the archdiocese (isn't this illegal?). With no salary, Ben and George can no longer afford to live in their rented apartment. So they must move, and to separate, as that's their only option. Ben goes to live with his nephew Elliot (Darren Burrows), Elliot's novelist wife Kate (Marisa Tomei), and their teenage son Joey (Charlie Tahan), who is not that happy that he has to share his room with his older uncle. George fares no better. He stays with policeman and former neighbors - gay couple Roberto (Manny Perez) and Ted (Cheyenne Jackson), who always have company over, late into the night, partying in the living room where George sleeps. Ben and George hope that this situation is only temporary as they long to live together again as a married couple. But financial obstacles keep getting in their way, delaying their longing to be together harder and harder.
"Love is Strange," directed by Ira Sachs ("Keep the Lights On"), and co-written by Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias, is more of a performance film and less a well told film. Lithgow and Molina are incredibly believable as a gay couple. The passion and love they have for each other, and the many onscreen kisses between them, are heartfelt and a bit emotional. Tahan is very good as the nephew who feels that his uncle is encroaching on his territory, and taking away his best friend. Tomei, who is always very good in any role she is in, is frustrated that she can't get to work on another novel because uncle Ben is always around, chatting specifically about nothing. But "Love is Strange" doesn't quite reach the pinnacle it aspires to. It's the film's way of telling Ben and George's story, the elapsed gaps, and easy to guess details, that make this film fall short, missing the truly emotional depths thats needed in telling this story. Sachs missed the mark on his last film - "Keep the Lights On" - which had similar problems with it's storyline. He's wasted an excellent cast in what is a graceful but flawed film. In the hands of Ang Lee, who directed the 'other' gay relationship movie "Brokeback Mountain," "Love is Strange" would've been a masterpiece. "Love is Strange" is now out on DVD and on digital demand.