Inspired by a real life incident when director Arie Posin's mother was convinced she saw her late husband walking down the street. See more »
When Nikki and Roger are sitting at the kitchen table reminiscing about Nikki's late husband Garret, Nikki puts a vegetable spread on a cracker. She goes to take a bite of it, but in the next camera shot the cracker is gone, and a new one (without any spread on it) is suddenly in her hand. See more »
The Face of Love, a drama directed by Ari Posen, also appears to be a psychological thriller. It's successful in part, and it's compelling during its 92 minutes. Posen's choice of Annette Bening for Nikki Lostrom - a recent widow trying to pull the strings of her life back together - is inspired, and a performance worth the DVD price.
Her intricate, emotional portrait as Nikki Lostrom allows the film a resonance it would, otherwise, never achieve. And this, not because the story and other actors aren't good. It is, and they are.
The complex level of emotional states between characters is crucial to the film's narrative. The action is the familiar and mundane elements of their day to day life in LA. On this canvas Nikki's husband Garret/ Tom Young (Ed Harris), Roger Stillman (Robin Williams) and Nikki's daughter, Summer (nicely played by Jesse Weixler) are unwittingly drawn into circumstances Nikki faces, this woman whose grand personal deception damages each of their lives.
The crux of Nikki's story - subtle emotional shifts in desiring to touch a world she'd known, allow our sitting on the edge of emotional catastrophes, and are a testament to Bening in her prime. She is so good at giving us access to simple and raw emotional information. And she's looking great on screen. Her ardent transparency in the close ups, is exquisite and unassuming. Here, Bening's fine art sensibility as an actress is on display. I remain averse to taking much Hollywood fare and personnel seriously. Hollywood studios do what they do well. And there's usually too much obvious punctuation in their symphony, too much starch and corn syrup in their product. As a piece of film making, The Face of Love gets the balance of these ingredients right - slices of contemporary American life without laboring on the familiar. Here, it uses those as a vehicle for an effecting emotional journey.
This is where I found the rub. There are some films that I love Ed Harris in. He's a capable & experienced film actor. But he's not for the role of husband, Garret, in this story. He makes a decent fist of the role, but in one of the first shots of him from behind, while we're shown Bening gazing adoringly at him, the character captured on screen is his baldness. There's no other way around it. Yes, yes, scold me that ' Love is blind', and it may well be for Bening's character, but the audience aren't blind, nor in love with Garret. They see what's up there on the screen - a man, bald as a coot, barely as tall as Bening, who, despite convincing displays of sincerity and kindness, in no way physically meets the obsessive attachment projected throughout by Bening.
If the act of your passing (death) is going to drive a woman into a spiral of longing so great that it warps the fabric of time, as in this story, then as that object of her longing, you need to show us the goods. Nikki, shown to us to be an exquisite, humane, capable, sensitive being in her own right is meant to have grown into utter union with this husband. We must see the beauty or uniqueness in him that attracted her. And it's right for us to believe that nothing or no one is ever to again come close to fulfilling that role in her life. Particularly not the simpering neighbor, Roger Stillman, played unlikeably well by the late Robin Williams.
For all his experience, Ed Harris is not the leading man for this role. Physically, the pattern and nature of his baldness, in close up, is a character in its own right. That's not to disparage Mr Harris, but to state fact of its appearance on screen, and the power of it's distraction to this role.
Harris' is a hard bitten face. It looks as if it's spent most of it's time being chiseled by the elements. Admire it as a wonder of creation, but topped with his immaculate baldness and lack of height, you have a mismatch for what the role needs. To surmount this distraction. Mr Harris needs to show us a truly affecting transparency in his character, as Bening does emphatically, for this story to work. We greatly need to see what makes him tick, and significantly, what it is about him that Bening totally surrenders into.
At times, Mr Harris gestures toward finding that, but again, (and this is a director shortcoming) front, back and side, mid and close up shots of this severely bald man, amid being adored by his on screen wife, detract repeatedly, and are an anomaly.
The Face of Love might have transcended script limitations and its occasional self conscious direction with a better choice of male lead. I do wonder where the script doctor was. A bit more attention to the process of script and story, this had the makings of a minor classic and an Academy nomination for Bening. Maybe getting things of this caliber made now in Hollywood is much harder. In any case, the film nearly breaks free of it's earthly bonds to morph into the stratosphere of thrilling possibility, and falls tantalisingly short. It is impressive. Despite not fulfilling it's thriller potential (Hitchcock would have LOVED this story) and my sigh of 'oh, what might have been' , I recognise it is something I will watch several more times, if only because Bening is so damned good.
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