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James Gray
Joaquin Phoenix, Gwyneth Paltrow, Vinessa Shaw
Writing Credits:
James Gray, Richard Menello

A depressed man finds himself torn between two lovers.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend:
$94,986 on 7 screens.
Domestic Gross:

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 110 min.
Price: $16.98
Release Date: 6/30/2009

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director James Gray
• Deleted Scenes
• “Behind the Scenes” Featurette
• “A Look At Two Lovers” Featurette
• Still Gallery
• Previews


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Two Lovers [Blu-Ray] (2009)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 6, 2023)

On the surface, 2008’s Two Lovers looks like sappy soap opera melodrama. However, with Gwyneth Paltrow and Joaquin Phoenix as the leads, I held out hope it would deliver something more substantial than weepy nonsense.

After his fiancée (Anne Joyce) dumps him, Leonard Kraditor (Phoenix) spirals into a deep depression. Due to his mental instability, he retreats to live with his parents (Moni Moshonov and Isabella Rossellini) and help out at their dry cleaning business.

Leonard’s life takes a turn when he meets two women. Sandra Cohen (Vinessa Shaw) is the sister of his parents’ prospective business partner (Bob Ari) and the one they encourage him to woo.

However, Leonard also gets to know Michelle Rausch (Paltrow) and immediately feels smitten, a potential affair complicated due to her romance with married Ronald Blatt (Elias Koteas). Leonard needs to navigate this minefield if he hopes to end up happy.

Remember three paragraphs ago when I felt the cast of Lovers inspired hope that it would offer something more substantial than the usual soap opera shenanigans? That synopsis forced me to quickly abandon those dreams.

Should the viewer expect the movie to rise above the cliché elements implied by that plot overview? Unfortunately no, as Lovers becomes a tedious mess.

Indeed, as I watched Lovers, I felt a tremendous sense of déjà vu. While I know I never saw it before the Blu-ray popped into my drive, I couldn’t help but feel like I’d already viewed the movie.

That occurred because the entirety of Lovers follows such well-worn paths. Leonard offers a character torn between the stable, nice girl who wants to be with him and the emotionally problematic mess.

Of course, Leonard craves Michelle despite – or perhaps because of – all the red flags she waves in his face. I get it: Leonard comes with plenty of his own psychological issues, so he finds himself drawn to a kindred spirit.

Nonetheless, this becomes a frustrating and eye-rolling plot convenience. The movie fails to explain well why Leonard feels so drawn to Michelle, and the film also never makes it especially clear why Sandra expresses such interest in him.

I guess we can assume both Leonard and Sandra feel some form of Savior Complex. Leonard finds someone even more screwed up than himself and feels the need to help Michelle, whereas Sandra wants to be mommy to the broken little boy.

All of this feels trite and undercooked. The movie never develops the roles in a compelling manner and we find ourselves utterly disengaged in their fates.

As noted at the start, we do find a nice cast, but they get stuck with nowhere to go given the stale nature of their roles. I do like that neither Paltrow nor Phoenix attempt to ingratiate themselves to the audience, so they give us their messed-up characters, warts and all.

Too bad the end result seems so bland and tedious. Two Lovers finds nothing fresh or interesting to do with its complex romantic narrative.

The Disc Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B/ Bonus B-

Two Lovers appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though not a terrible presentation, the image seemed oddly bland.

Sharpness appeared generally positive, though not great. This meant the movie showed decent to good delineation but it lacked particularly impressive definition.

No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects materialized, but light edge haloes cropped up through the film. I saw no print flaws, however.

In terms of colors, Lovers opted for a dingy mix of amber and teal. I guess the hues matched design choices, but they felt oddly bland.

Blacks leaned inky, and shadows felt a bit thick. Again, the image never flopped, but it worked less well than I’d expect from a film from 2008.

On the other hand, the movie’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack offered more of a kick than anticipated for a character drama. Not that anyone should expect anything demo-worthy, but the mix seemed reasonably immersive.

This meant that scenes on streets or in clubs or the like offered decent involvement. The score boasted nice stereo presence, and the track even opted for some localized lines at times.

Audio quality worked fine, with speech that appeared concise and distinctive. Music showed positive range and oomph.

Effects didn’t boast a lot of theatrics, but they came across as accurate and full. This turned into a surprisingly engaging track.

A few extras appear, and the primary attraction comes from an audio commentary with writer/director James Gray. He provides a running, screen-specific look at the project’s origins and development, story/characters, influences, cast and performances, sets and locations, music and sound design, photography, editing and costumes.

Gray provides a pretty terrific commentary here, as he digs into the movie with lots of insights. I could live without his occasional vocal impersonations of others, but nonetheless, Gray delivers a consistently informative chat.

Behind the Scenes runs seven minutes, four seconds. It features info from Gray, producer Donna Gigliotti, and actors Vinessa Shaw, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Moni Moshonov.

We get notes about story/characters, cast and performances, an Gray’s impact on the shoot. This becomes a passable but fairly superficial overview.

Three Deleted Scenes span a total of nine minutes, 22 seconds. Two show more character beats with Leonard and the other introduces a bookie role cut from the film.

The last one feels out of nowhere, while the other two just add nothing memorable. Text from Gray precedes each scenes and tells us why he cut them.

Next we get a Photo Gallery that offers 33 shots. These mix images from the production with movie stills. Don’t expect anything interesting.

Finally, A Look At Two Lovers goes for four minutes, 32 seconds. Produced for HDNet, it brings info from Gray and Shaw.

We get some story/character basics. This acts as a simple promo piece.

The disc opens with ads for The Life Before Her Eyes, What Just Happened, Flawless and Mutant Chronicles. No trailer for Lover appears here.

Despite a solid cast, Two Lovers becomes a sub-mediocre melodrama. It brings nothing new to the table and turns into a consistent bore. The Blu-ray offers oddly bland visuals, fairly good audio and a smattering of bonus materials. Don’t expect much from this dull drama.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
0 3:
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