In Love is Strange aging newly married couple Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) are forced to live apart after 39 years together because George loses his job. Set in New York City, George moves in with two gay police officers and Ben bunks with his nephew’s family in Brooklyn. Tensions run high as everyone gets used to the new living situations.
The title of the film posits that love is strange, but I found nothing strange in the relationship between Ben and George. In fact, much of the movie seems to try and convince the audience that their relationship is anything but strange. I did feel like the chemistry between Lithgow and Molina fell flat and seemed forced. However, Molina’s performance in the film stands out when he is alone and longing for his partner.
While George lives with the police officers (Cheyenne Jackson and Manny Perez) that live downstairs, we get a glimpse into Ben’s family when he moves in with nephew Elliot (Darren Burrows) and his wife, Kate, and teenage son (Marisa Tomei and Charlie Tahan). The tension between Ben and Kate as they adjust to the new living situation is well acted and relatable, and Tomei shines when confronting Elliot about her frustrations with Ben.
The soundtrack is filled with selections from Chopin, which makes sense in context as George is a music teacher. There is one scene in which the same piece is played two different ways, one sad and lingering, and one more filled with hope. I thought the music was superb, and really helped redeem an otherwise mediocre film.
The film shows a number of tired stereotypes, such as George losing his Catholic school job, “the gay uncle”, the surly teenager, and the young gay party animals, which lead to a rather predictable conclusion (don’t worry, no spoilers here). Instead of showing the heartbreaking end, we instead are transported ahead in time when the characters have dealt with the aftermath, and have begun to heal. The film uses this technique throughout, showing us snippets of everyday life and leaving us to fill in the big moments. Frankly, I got whiplash.
Love is Strange comes out in New York and Los Angeles in select theatres August 22nd.