Lovers lame

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Two Lovers will doubtlessly be remembered as the movie Joaquin Phoenix plugged (or didn't) during his infamous recent Letterman appearance. If his proclaimed pursuit of a hip-hop career isn't just a brilliant publicity scheme, this is the film that will be Phoenix's swan song. His performance shows him as a talent who (maybe) will be missed, though the flawed flick would make a poor endnote.

Leonard Kraditor (Phoenix) is a troubled Brooklyn bachelor who lives and works with his dry-cleaner parents. A lovely family friend (Vinessa Shaw) seems romantically interested, but Leonard is more drawn to Michelle (Gwyneth Paltrow), an attractive but unavailable neighbor.

Two Lovers aims to be a morally ambiguous romantic drama for grown-ups. Director James Grey crafts a plot that smacks of Woody Allen - but more working-class and unfunny - though he fails to properly develop his isosceles love triangle, with Shaw's leg getting short shrift, making it difficult to give a damn.

I was rooting for a Paltrow comeback after her likable turn in Iron Man, but she plays Michelle with little nuance, and her vanishing Brooklyn accent is pretty bad.

On the other hand, Phoenix gives a fine performance, oddly reminiscent of the awkward intensity of his first great role in Gus Van Sant's To Die For. Let's hope for the sake of his legacy that this isn't his last movie.

"Two Lovers"

Opens Friday

Grade: C+