Two Lovers

Joaquin Phoenix, Gwyneth Paltrow, Vinessa Shaw, Isabella Rossellini, Elias Koteas

Directed by James Gray
Rolling Stone: star rating
5 3
Community: star rating
5 3 0
January 21, 2009

Bravely wearing his heart on his sleeve, James Gray directs the tender and terrific Two Lovers as an antidote to the virus of hip. Forget the setting in modern Brooklyn. You watch Joaquin Phoenix yearn for Gwyneth Paltrow, the blond goddess-next-door, and it could be Marlon Brando putting his first tentative moves on Eva Marie Saint in 1954's On the Waterfront. This is delicate business, the kind of lost art that usually gets crushed under the jackboots of the trendy.

Phoenix, in one of his best performances (let's hope his decision to quit acting is an empty threat), finds the bruised romantic in Leonard Kraditor. The bipolar man-child has retreated to the Brighton Beach apartment of his parents (Isabella Rossellini and Moni Moshonov) and a nowhere job. He sparks when Sandra (the lovely Vinessa Shaw), the daughter of a family friend, shows an interest. But when his eyes lock on Michelle (Paltrow), he's a goner. Never mind that Michelle is being screwed and supported by a married jerk (Elias Koteas) with kids. The film's secrets unfold slowly, allowing Phoenix and Paltrow — a luminous fusion of grace and grit — to build a relationship in full. The script, by Gray and Richard Menello, is inspired by Dostoevsky's White Nights. But Gray, moving far from the crime scenes of Little Odessa, The Yards and We Own the Night, offers his own acute vision of love as a battle with loneliness. It'll get to you.

Movie Review Main Next


Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...


Sort by:
    Read More

    Movie Reviews

    More Reviews »
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.


    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “Santa Monica”

    Everclear | 1996

    After his brother and girlfriend both died of drug overdoses, Art Alexakis -- depressed and hooked on drugs himself -- jumped off the Santa Monica Pier in California, determined to die. "It was really stupid," said the Everclear frontman, who would further explore his personal emotional journey in the song "Father of Mine." "I went under the water. Then I said, 'I don't wanna die.'" The song, declaring "Let's swim out past the breakers/and watch the world die," was intended as a manifesto for change, Alexakis said. "Let the world do what it's gonna do and just live on our own."

    More Song Stories entries »