Skip to main content
Mark Llobrera

Top level navigation menu

Cover art forTwo Lovers

Two Lovers

Jan 28, 2024

First time watching this, spurred by the recent Bright Wall/Dark Room podcast(let). Some of my favorite writers have invoked The Heartbreak Kid and Alfonso Cuarón’s Great Expectations for thematic resonance, and I agree. But I also thought about Joaquin Phoenix in one of his earlier roles, from Inventing the Abbotts—another film where his character wrestles with class and misplaced lust.

The three leads are all great. I was struck with how much Phoenix’s Leonard really doesn’t fit anywhere—he’s sophisticated and creative enough to chafe at being in his parents’ insular Brooklyn world, but not so sophisticated that he can pass when hanging out in Manhattan with Gwyneth Paltrow’s Michelle (although that dance scene is an all-timer). Phoenix really modulates Leonard’s persona depending on the setting—he’s awkward and unsure playing against Paltrow, but with Vinessa Shaw’s Sandra he’s more confident and easygoing. Paltrow’s performance reminds me that it’s a shame how she’s mostly stepped away from acting. Vinessa Shaw has a tough job playing a woman who is perfect in every way, yet somehow not captivating enough for Leonard—and I think she nails it. Add then you have Isabella Rosselini and Elias Koteas in supporting roles…

The ending is either hopeful or the bleakest thing ever, depending on how you hold it up to the light.