The major issue that I had with “Love Is Strange” is that I think that the best part of it are the first 15-20 minutes, and that everything that came afterwards didn’t quite live up to that promising beginning. The movie starts with this great depiction of an elderly gay couple, their wedding, and the tragic turn that their life takes directly afterwards, at a time when they both should be at their happiest. But the fact that – because of their marriage – George gets fired from his job gets them into a financial predicament, and as long as they’re looking for a new apartment, they stay with different parts of their family. Ben moves in with his son and his daughter-in-law, while George moves in with another (gay cop) son. Thus, shortly after marrying, they become separated for a longer period for the first time in their life.
Obviously, this puts a serious strain on both of them – and it also did on me as a viewer. I really missed seeing them together as a couple, since that was the heart and the soul of the movie. Whenever they were together, the screen lit up, and the movie got considerably better. Now, I could imagine that this was exactly what Ira Sachs intended; however, it doesn’t make the longer stretches that they spent apart any more bearable and/or entertaining. Because unfortunately, as soon as they were apart the movie lost much of its charm and appeal for me. There are also some rather strange shifts of tone in the movie. Most of “Love Is Strange” is rather matter-of-factly and subdued, but occasionally (especially near the end, which I found to be extremely predictable) it gets really melodramatic. Some of that was just a little bit too much to me, trying too hard to pull at my heartstrings, thus achieving exactly the opposite. Oh, and what was up with the grandson and his friend? I don’t think that I got this subplot.
The main reason the movie kinda worked despite those drawbacks is the cast. John Lithgow and Alfred Molina are absolutely fantastic – and totally believable and convincing – as an elderly gay couple that’s been in love with each other for most of their lives. The supporting cast is also excellent, with the ever-reliable Marisa Tomei a particular standout. Also: I really loved the setup (even though the rest of the movie didn’t quite live up to it), and even during the rest of the movie there were a couple of great, memorable scenes; some funny, some sad. I especially enjoyed a particular joke that the movie worked towards for 2-3 minutes, which paid off in a great way and got huge laughs from the audience. Still, as much as I can understand what Ira Sachs was trying to do here, in my opinion the movie suffers greatly from the fact that Ben and George spent most of the movie separated – a drawback that even the cast and the individual great scenes can’t fully compensate.