“All I can say is that Leaf was one of the most outrageously talented children I've ever encountered and that was clear from the very first read-through. We all looked at each other with raised eyebrows, because he had us crying at a scene rehearsal, with script in hand. He was a force of nature.”
Joaquin Phoenix is a force of nature in **Two Lovers,** reportedly the actor’s last motion picture. Phoenix portrays Leonard Kraditor, a morose individual who lives in Queens County, Long Island. Leonard takes medication for his bipolar condition and he lives with his parents, Reuben ( Moni Moshonov) and Ruth ( Isabella Rossellini). After falling into the ocean (or was it a suicide attempt?), Leonard learns that his parents are planning a business dinner with the Cohen family. The matriarchs of the Cohen and Kraditor families hope to play matchmakers for Leonard and Sandra Cohen (Vinessa Shaw). Leonard and Sandra are courteous with each other, there is no romantic chemistry.
While walking through his parent’s hallway one afternoon, Leonard meets Michelle (Gwyneth Paltrow). Leonard and Michelle realize that they share opposing views from their bedroom windows. As Leonard develops an instant attachment towards Michelle, the two go night clubbing together. While performing his charming “white man break dancing,” Leonard learns that Michelle has a steady boyfriend, who happens to be married with children.
As the story and character development progresses, Leonard is offered a choice in his relationships. Leonard can pursue a relationship with a woman who needs him, or a woman who wants to take of him. While the choice should be obvious to the audience, the choice is a conflicting one for Leonard Kraditor.
**Two Lovers** deals with individuals who must heal from the scars of their past. Leonard’s depression could stem from his inability to let go of a previous relationship, a clue revealed with his cell phone ring tone set to **Fur Elise,* Ludwig van Beethoven’s bagatelle of lost love.
**Two Lovers** is mostly a performance driven movie. Isabella Rossellini manages to take an underwritten role and fills her moments with nosey maternal pain. Gwyneth Paltrow is challenged with a role that is far removed from her **Shakespeare in Love**
and recent comic book character portrayals. Yet, **Two Lovers** will be remembered for Joaquín Phoenix’s controlled and nuanced performance. Perhaps Mr. Phoenix should study his own understated acting style before he embarks on a full fledged career as caucasian rap artist. Word.n