After Ben and George 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.
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After nearly four decades together, Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) finally tie the knot in an idyllic wedding ceremony in lower Manhattan. But when George loses his job soon after, the couple must sell their apartment and - victims of the relentless New York City real estate market - temporarily live apart until they can find an affordable new home. While George moves in with two cops (Cheyenne Jackson and Manny Perez) who live down stairs, Ben lands in Brooklyn with his nephew (Darren Burrows), his wife (Marisa Tomei), and their temperamental teenage son (Charlie Tahan), with whom Ben shares a bunk bed. While struggling with the pain of separation, Ben and George are further challenged by the intergenerational tensions and capricious family dynamics of their new living arrangements. Written by
Sony Pictures Classics
a brutally honest take on senility and appeals for an authentic mutual esteem
This Ira Sachs' follow-up of his strained relationship chronicle KEEP THE LIGHTS ON (2012) revolves around a senior gay couple in Manhattan, New York, Ben (Lithgow), an obscure painter and George (Molina), a music teacher in a Catholic school, after gay-marriage has been legalised, they finally tie the knot after 39 years together, their love has been blessed by friends and family, but the segueing repercussions cost George his post due to the obvious prejudice among those religious conservatives, and the unforeseen financial plight forces them to sell the apartment and live with their relatives and friends, yet as none of them have extra rooms for both, so they have to spend the transitional time separately.
The story unwinds with both encounter difficulties in their provisional homes, Ben is living with his nephew Elliot (Burrows), a photographer, his writer wife Kate (Tomei) and their teenage son Joey (Tahan), his inconvenient intrusion already ruffles Joey's feathers as they have to share a same room with a double bunk, moreover, the co-existence slowly but surely also tests the limitation of Kate's patience. In another side, George becomes a couch-surfer in their friends Ted (Jackson) and Roberto (Perez)'s apartment, however, the unashamed cliché is they are frequent home-party throwers, even when they have a friend sleeping on their couch.
Their situations are not too rosy, but admirably Sachs doesn't plunge the usual melodrama between them, after being each other's soul-mate and life-partners for such a long time, they reach the mutual coordination of understanding, respect and support, the story itself transcends the gay setting and sublimates into a hymn to universal love which only those very few can actually acquire in reality. Thanks to Lithgow and Molina's unforced but extremely moving performances, which potently fuels the final revelation with utter poignancy, and pretty unusually, in an extraordinary way. Rather than a tearjerker, the film more inclines to be a worshipper of love and respect even when in the time of loss, through a subplot of Joey's own wayward pubertal rebellion, we have the chance to glance at the real problem inside straight people's gay-friendly facade, the fight for equality and against discrimination is a protracted battle and there is no time for slackening.
I should also name-check Tomei for her brilliant turn as Kate, gallantly runs the full gamut from the one who gifts them an affecting ode about how Ben and George are exemplars of love for her and Elliot, to her final scene of a hysterical flare-up to vent her frustration and dissatisfaction, she is truly amazing.
Under the pervasion of classical music pieces, LOVE IS STRANGE is alternately heart- warming, heart-touching and heart-rending, Ira Sachs perfects his narrative strategy with more self-control and less on-the-nose intensity, and it turns out to be an unheralded gem not just from the viewpoint of LGBT genre, but a brutally honest take on senility and appeals for an authentic mutual esteem among each and every soul on the earth.
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