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Two Lovers

168 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Set in the insular world of Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, TWO LOVERS is a classic romantic drama, with Joaquin Phoenix giving a raw and vulnerable performance as Leonard, a charismatic but troubled young man who moves back into his childhood home following a recent heartbreak. While recovering under the watchful eye of his parents (Isabella Rossellini and Moni Monoshov), Leonard meets two women in quick succession: Michelle (Gwyneth Paltrow), a mysterious and beautiful neighbor who is exotic and out-of-place in Leonard's staid world, and Sandra, the lovely and caring daughter of a businessman who is buying out his family's dry-cleaning business.
Leonard becomes deeply infatuated by Michelle, who seems poised to fall for him, but is having a self-destructive affair with a married man. At the same time, mounting pressure from his family pushes him towards committing to Sandra. Leonard is forced to make an impossible decision between the impetuousness of desire and the comfort of love or risk falling back into the darkness that nearly killed him.

Russian-American director James Gray (The Yards) has never made any secret of his affection for the Italian crime drama. That operatic influence permeated his first three features, but Two Lovers takes more cues from intimate French films and angst-ridden Russian fiction (specifically Dostoevsky's short story "White Nights"). Aspiring photographer Leonard (Gray regular Joaquin Phoenix) returns to Brooklyn after a failed relationship only to find himself torn between two paramours of opposing personalities. Sandra (Vinessa Shaw, 3:10 to Yuma) represents the safe choice, while Michelle (Gwyneth Paltrow, recalling her streetwise character in P.T. Anderson's Hard Eight) presents more of a challenge--she's a party girl in love with a married man--but Michelle excites him in ways the thoughtful and attentive Sandra, a drug-company rep, does not. Gray leaves it up to viewers to determine whether Leonard should factor religion into his decision; his supportive parents (Isabella Rossellini and Moni Monoshov) would love to see him pair up with the Jewish Sandra, but mostly they want their only son to be happy. If he joins his father--and Sandra's--in the dry-cleaning game, that would be a happy bonus (the men are working on a merger). Though Leonard's bipolar quirks threaten to derail the proceedings--it's hard to believe two beautiful women would gravitate towards such a socially awkward fellow--Two Lovers marks an improvement over Gray's previous movie, We Own the Night, and a welcome return to the picturesque Brighton Beach neighborhood of Little Odessa, his auspicious debut. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

Special Features

  • Commentary with Director, James Gray
  • Behind the Scenes
  • Deleted Scenes
  • HDNet: A Look at Two Lovers
  • Photo Gallery

Product Details

  • Actors: Joaquin Phoenix, Gwyneth Paltrow, Vinessa Shaw
  • Directors: James Gray
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Magnolia Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: June 30, 2009
  • Run Time: 108 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (168 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001RJ1Y62
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,752 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Two Lovers" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

87 of 90 people found the following review helpful By SORE EYES on August 9, 2009
Format: DVD
Leonard Kraditor (Joaquin Phoenix) struggles with depression after his fiance leaves him. The movie opens with Leonard attempting suicide. That night he meets Sandra (Vanessa Shaw)-a sweet, affable, loving girl. A short time later he runs into Michelle (Gwyneth Paltrow)-a drug addled, promiscuous, party girl who loves a married man. Sandra wants to take care of Leonard and Leonard wants to take care of Michelle.

In his relationship with Michelle, Leonard is the strong one, the good one. In his relationship with Sandra, he continues to be the weak man from his past-the guy that needs gentle understanding. It's no wonder he pines for Michelle even though she's going to lead him down the path of self destruction. But every lover wants the chase.

I loved this movie and am frankly surprised by the bad reviews. Two Lovers may be subtle and a bit slow for some, but I found it nuanced and charming. At times in my life I've been the sunny party girl in love with the wrong man, the depressed lover pining for a an ex, and the sweet affable girl who could utter such lines as "if you don't want me, it's ok. I mean a lot of guys don't want me." Everyone should find at least one character in this film they can relate to. Highly recommended.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By DJ Joe Sixpack HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on July 15, 2009
Format: DVD
"Two Lovers"
(Magnolia Films, 2009)
Joaquin Phoenix turns in a stunning, multi-layered performance as Leonard, a faltering, shaken young man whose life has been upended by a jilted marriage engagement and a psychiatric diagnosis (that remains fuzzily-defined for the film's viewers...) Leonard has come back home to live with his benign, elderly parents in the predominantly Jewish neighborhood of Brighton Beach, and from this position of infantilization and defeat, he starts to mend his life.

When romance comes into his life, through two women -- one wild and forbidden, the other nurturing and safe -- the complexity of Leonard's character comes into view. One might expect such a damaged man to seek the comfort of the safe lover, the future wife who will replace the fiance who deserted him, but instead he is drawn to the mystery of his wild new neighbor, played by Gwyneth Paltrow. (One remarkable twist in this film is how we as viewers find ourselves pushed away from the ever-attractive Ms. Paltrow: her character exudes danger and chaos: run away! we want to yell as Leonard becomes more and more infatuated with her...)

Phoenix's performance continually defies our expectations. His Leonard doesn't reveal itself in the simplistic, cookie-cutter vocabulary of most modern filmmaking, be it mainstream or indie; there are parts of his personality that remain elusive and that don't make sense, and even his ultimate decision about what to do with his life is difficult to gauge. Did he make a "good" decision? Will it last? Does he heal? We simply do not know. All we know is what we can see, and in this case, what we see is a fine film with an unusually rich, mature psychological complexity. Definitely worth checking out. (Joe Sixpack, Slipcue film review blog)
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Andres C. Salama on December 8, 2009
Format: DVD
An interesting drama about an imperfect love triangle. Joaquin Phoenix plays Leonard, a man perhaps in his early thirties, living in an apartment in Brooklyn with his parents, a Jewish couple who have a small dry cleaning operation where Leonard works. Leonard has a story behind him: an engagement with a girl was broken some years ago when they found that they were genetically incompatible, and he has tried to kill himself in the past, more than once. His parents, worried by him, try to set him up with Sandra, the nice daughter of a fellow (and apparently wealthier) Jewish businessman. Though not terribly enthusiastic about Sandra, he starts going out with her, who is very attracted to him (why a seemingly down to earth person like Sandra would be attracted to an obviously troubled person like Leonard is unclear, though I suppose things like this happen, though not very usually, in real life). But just when Leonard and Sandra start meeting and knowing each other, he meets Michelle (Gwyneth Paltrow, who is great), an impetuous, beautiful, but messed-up neighbor. Leonard falls for Michelle quickly, but soon realizes that she sees him basically as an asexual friend, and feels no sexual attraction whatsoever for him. In fact, Michelle has a relationship with a married man, and wants Leonard to go out with them in order to see if he would be willing to leave his family to her. A normal guy would realize there is no hope with her and tell her goodbye at this point, but Leonard is too smitten with Michelle to do so. And so, while his relationship with Sandra starts growing, so does his obsession with Michelle (who, while not really loving him, is constantly calling him for help).Read more ›
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Roland E. Zwick on October 12, 2009
Format: DVD
It's a tricky enough business trying to juggle two relationships at the same time even under the best of circumstances. Now imagine trying to do so when your mental stability is already in question and your emotional state far from sound.

In "Two Lovers," Joaquin Phoenix plays a young man who suffers from suicidal depression. His condition has made it imperative that he move back in with his parents, an old world couple who live in a spacious apartment in Brighton Beach. Leonard's life turns even more complicated and stressful when he becomes involved with both an attractive friend of the family (whom the parents want him to hook up with) and a beautiful but seriously troubled neighbor he meets one day in the hall. The problem is that Leonard is really head-over-heels in love with the needy, self-absorbed and high maintenance Michelle (who is herself involved with a married man), and is really only using Sandra as a means of getting back at Michelle for not reciprocating his love.

Based on the Dostoevsky short story "White Nights" and the 1957 Visconti movie of the same name, the inexorably sad and moving "Two Lovers" takes place in a world in which the characters rarely talk above a whisper and from which all possibility of joy seems to have been drained away. The movie is almost achingly perceptive about how the human psyche actually works when it comes to affairs of the heart, acknowledging that we can control neither how we feel about others nor how others feel about us - though we certainly do expend a great deal of our energy and time trying! Leonard is not a "bad" guy at heart; he doesn't go out of his way to intentionally hurt others, but he's also not above deceiving himself into believing he's doing nothing wrong when he clearly is.
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