Loose ends uncut story of love and rent

Tom Long
Detroit News Film Critic

After Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) get married, George is fired from his teaching post, forcing them to stay with friends separately while they sell their place and look for cheaper housing -- a situation that weighs heavily on all involved.

'Love is Strange' takes something so right and leaves it hanging all wrong.

What's so right about the film is the nonchalant way it depicts a gay relationship and marriage. Yes, that marriage causes some unforeseen problems, but the film doesn't spend too much energy hammering away at injustice. This is a movie about love and life and aging; it revolves around two long-term lovers. They happen to be gay. No big deal.

Unfortunately, director and co-writer Ira Sachs is just as relaxed with his plot here as he is with his characters' sexuality. By the film's simultaneously drawn-out and rather sudden end all sorts of pragmatic questions remain unanswered. The bottom line is, characters this delightful and fleshed-out deserve a better film.

Those delightful characters would be Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina), two men who've lived together for decades and who get married as the film begins. Ben is the more senior of the two, a painter living on a pension while George teaches music at a Catholic school in New York City.

When the Catholic diocese finds out George has married Ben, it fires him, even though the two have hardly been closeted. And this brings the film to its crucial problem — the couple can no longer afford the rent on their apartment. They need to find someplace to stay. Or, as it turns out, some places.

George ends up sleeping on the couch of some younger friends, friends still in partying mode. Ben, meanwhile, ends up sharing a bunk-bed with the teenage son of his nephew.

Gay, straight, purple or polka-dotted, this makes for awkward times. Suddenly each man's home life and love life is disrupted and they find themselves trapped in homes they are in turn disrupting. The wife (Marisa Tomei) of Ben's nephew finds herself driven mad by his constant chatty presence and George feels thoroughly isolated in his frat house situation.

Longtime friends Lithgow and Molina have wonderfully comfortable chemistry together and "Love is Strange" examines the value of home and family, and the disconcerting arbitrariness of life and circumstance nicely for a while. But it opens too many doors without making sense of what's behind them and ultimately drifts off. Pity. Ben and George were such a lovely couple.


"Love is Strange" (R ) John Lithgow and Alfred Molina share wonderfully comfortable chemistry as an older gay couple who lose their apartment just after getting married in this film, but too many plot points are just abandoned along the way and the ending just drifts off. (94 minutes) GRADE: C+

'Love is Strange'


Rated R for language

Running time: 94 minutes