Love Is Strange

Love Is Strange ★★★½

This French-American production seems like more of a vignette than a story. It takes up the lives of a New York gay couple late in life, when they are finally able to marry after 39 years together. We get hints here and there of how they spent their younger years, but the focus is very much on the present and the predicament caused by their tying the knot.

Benjamin Arthur Hull (John Lithgow) is 71 years old, a retired artist drawing a pension and still very much in love with his younger husband George Esteban Garea (Alfred Molina), who works as a music teacher. They honeymoon in Petra, but when photos of the wedding and trip appear on the Internet, the administrators at St. Grace Catholic School decide George has broken his contract, not honoring the mandates of their faith, and he is fired.

Of course, living in New York City is expensive. Until the couple can find a new, less costly place to live, they split up temporarily ... George living with a couple of friends who are gay cops, and Ben moving in with his filmmaker nephew Elliot (Darren Burrows) and his wife Kate (Marisa Tomei) plus their teenage son Joey (Charlie Tahan).

Right away there are problems. George can hardly get any sleep on the couch he's been offered, because there seems to be a party in the apartment every night. Ben starts getting on the nerves of Joey and Kate, while Elliot is rarely around. What's more, Ben and George aren't used to being apart so much; they miss each other and the separation works hard on both of them.

Credit goes to writer-director Ira Sachs for maintaining audience interest throughout and arranging for some lovely piano music to accompany this. As indie films go, it's pretty good, buoyed by the performances of two great male actors. But again, it feels like a piece of a story rather than a complete picture, and I enjoyed it somewhat less because of that.

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