October 23, 2009 -- This is a kind of standard tale of star-crossed lovers, missed opportunities, extra-marital affairs and culture clashes. This is perhaps best approached as a comedy, rather than drama. But drama is what we have here and it works well enough thanks to some fine acting performances.
You hate to see a romantic movie start off with a suicide attempt, especially a drowning attempt. It tends to throw cold water on one's movie entertainment experience, pardon the pun. On the other hand, if you start off with suicide, you have nowhere to go but up. The protagonist, Leonard Kraditor (played by Joaquin Phoenix of “Gladiator”), jumps off a pier while mooning over a lost love, only to be rescued. His parents, Reuben Kraditor (Moni Moshonov) and Ruth Kaditor (Isabella Rossellini), noting his wet clothing when he gets home figure “He must have tried again,” oh well. No big deal, apparently.
The suicidal Leonard soon rebounds, however, when he meets a hot chick who moves into his apartment building, Michelle Rausch (Gwyneth Paltrow of “Iron Man”). He begins persuing Michelle, only to find out she already has a boyfriend, a married man who is paying her apartment rent. Leonard becomes a reluctant third wheel in this affair when Michelle asks him to meet her boyfriend, Ronald Blatt (Elias Koteas of “Shooter”) and determine if his intentions are honorable, that is, will he do the honorable thing and dump his wife and kids and take up with her? At the same time Leonard is discovering Michelle's life is just too twisted, he encounters another woman, Sandra Cohen (Vanessa Shaw of “3:10 to Yuma”). He's in love with Michelle, but he immediately has sex with Sandra. He decides maybe he'll bother to date Sandra too, if he feels like it. Sandra is the daughter of his father's business associate, the magnate of some kind of dry cleaning empire.
The suicidal Leonard now has two women to choose from, one hot, but twisted, the other not so hot, but very nice, very rich and very available. Leonard is also from a wealthy family which is about to get wealthier due to a pending merger with the Cohen dry cleaning operation. Let's face it, Leonard does not have it very tough. Millions of guys would love to have his “problems.” There are a couple of plot twists and a bit of misdirection to keep things interesting. The ending is a bit unusual. Phoenix and Paltrow both give very good performances, and they have to in order to make these odd characters believable. It's not a bad little movie, despite the hangdog suicidal main character. Woody Allen could have made a very funny film out of this exact same story. This film rates a C+.
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