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DVD: Two Lovers

Remember a few months ago when, in the midst of promoting “Two Lovers,” Joaquin Phoenix made a bizarre appearance on “The Late Show with David Letterman”? The shaggy-bearded actor stared off into the distance, gave monosyllabic answers, and acted like a full-on whack job. In all the fuss, Phoenix’s movie was forgotten. What a shame because “Two Lovers” is one of the best things he’s done.

Working once again with frequent collaborator James Gray (“The Yards,” “We Own the Night”), the actor stars as Leonard, a suicidal screw-up who moves back home with his folks (Isabella Rossellini, Moni Moshonov) after being dumped by a girlfriend. He takes up with a Brighton Beach dry cleaner’s daughter (Vinessa Shaw) and, at the same time, gets pulled into the orbit of the needy paralegal (Gwyneth Paltrow) who lives across the hall.
Gwyneth Paltrow stars in "Two Lovers."Gwyneth Paltrow stars in “Two Lovers.”

In contrast to the other Phoenix/Gray films, the emphasis is on relationships rather than crime. There isn’t much of a plot as Leonard ping-pongs between a woman who wants to take care of him and a woman he wants to take care of. But you don’t need a plot when you have Phoenix’s face to stare at. His eyes light up like a kid on Christmas morning when he’s in the vicinity of Paltrow, a woman so far out of his league she might as well be living on the moon.

Elias Koteas, Gwyneth Paltrow and Joaquin Phoenix in "Two Lovers."Elias Koteas, Gwyneth Paltrow and Joaquin Phoenix in “Two Lovers.”

Both cutting and gentle, Gray’s almost-love story doubles as a study in loneliness, family politics, and the rush of romance. “Two Lovers” might have gotten lost at the box office, but its intimate storytelling and authentic emotions deserve a second chance on DVD.

Rated: R
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Gwyneth Paltrow, Vinessa Shaw, Elias Koteas, Isabella Rossellini, Moni Moshonov
Director: James Gray
Release Date: 6/30/09

Official Site:

[Amy Longsdorf’s entertainment coverage has appeared in “Blender,” “People,” the “Chicago Tribune,” the “Toronto Star,” and “Newsday.” She doesn’t want to imagine a world without Preston Sturges movies, Stax singles, and the music of Bob Marley.]

About Jenny Peters (165 Articles)
Jet Set Jen is the brainchild of Jenny Peters, a longtime freelance journalist whose career has spanned everything considered "Lifestyle" reporting, from movies and celebrities to fashion and fast cars, with plenty of food, wine and travel thrown in too. She currently contributes regularly to USA Today's,, New York Magazine, Coast Magazine, Bask Magazine and numerous other newspapers, magazines and websites worldwide. She is a founding and voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (, which annually honors the year's top films with the Critics' Choice Awards. Jenny and her crack cadre of reporters at Jet Set Jen offer up opinions, suggestions and insider scoops on the best that the world has to offer, to keep you on the cutting edge of that ever elusive pursuit of life, liberty, happiness – and fun, fun, fun.

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