Magazine article Variety

Perceptive Tale of Gay Marriage Focuses on Family

Magazine article Variety

Perceptive Tale of Gay Marriage Focuses on Family

Article excerpt

Perceptive Tale of Gay Marriage Focuses on Family

Love Is Strange

Director: Ira Sachs

Starring: Alfred Molina, John Lithgow, Marisa Tomei

Truth springs from the title and trickles down into every pore of "Love Is Strange," an uncompromising yet accessible slice-of-life expression from Ira Sachs, one of the most perceptive and personal directors working in American cinema. Here, the helmer branches out beyond his own lived experience to imagine a same-sex relationship 39 years strong as it is tested immediately following the couple's long-overdue marriage. This beautifully observed ensembler shines on the strength of its two leads, John Lithgow and Alfred Molina, who conjure four decades together as they enter the "for better, for worse" phase of their union.

Keenly aware that it is the "sexual" part of homosexuality that seems to offend the family-values crowd, Sachs has shrewdly focused on an example where hearts lead the way - so much so that the couple's progressive New York family look to their old gay uncles as role models in romance. That's not to say that painter Ben (Lithgow) and music teacher George (Molina) are an idealized pair. They still bicker and fuss, and in one of the film's most moving scenes, an errant husband apologizes for his past indiscretions.

These two may as well be real people, which is precisely how Sachs and co-writer Mauricio Zacharias have conceived them, leaving room for the actors to breathe life into the roles. It takes a bit of time for audiences to acclimate, leaving the early scenes feeling somewhat stiff as Ben and George exchange vows, while characters we haven't had a chance to meet clap and smile from the sidelines.

In short order, the key players emerge, courtesy of a family powwow in which the elderly newlyweds face the consequences of making their commitment public: Though the administrators at the Catholic school where George teaches music had long known he was gay, they're forced to fire him after diocese officials get wind of his marriage. Without George's income, the couple can't afford their mortgage and are forced to impose on their inner circle for a place to stay.

George crashes with "the policewomen," as they affectionately refer to their butch gay-cop buddies (Cheyenne Jackson and Manny Perez), while Ben lands with his workaholic nephew Elliot (Darren Burrows) and his write-fromhome wife Kate (Marisa Tomei), where he shares a bunk bed with their teenage son, Joey (Charlie Tahan), who's at just the age when privacy would be preferred. …

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