Jeremy Carr wrote "poignant melodrama and carefully considered art film, without any pretention whatsoever." Sadly I find just the opposite...melodramatic yes but hardly poignant. Neither carefully considered nor art. And heavily pretentious. You never forget that Joaquin Phoenix is Joaquin Phoenix or that Gwyneth Paltrow is Gwyneth Paltrow. Both actors wearing shallow characters going through the motions.
I've yet to be convinced of Gray's brilliance (The Yards is still my favorite of his work). This film was uneven, especially in the characterization of Leonard, who seems to be two people (but not convincingly so). The most true and powerful portrayal is of the two women. The last thirty minutes are painful (in a good way) and almost elevate the film to a higher level.
My 2nd Gray film after The Immigrant. I loved this film, especially the way timing (as relationships typically are) makes victims of the 3 key players. Phoenix shows his acting prowess by toeing the line between regular Joe, socially awkward, and a bit crazy. While he may one day wish to have drowned, his sham of a relationship, ring & commitment, is based on lucky/unlucky timing. It's a fascinating journey.
I enjoyed the acting in this film by everyone but Gwyneth Paltrow. Her character, such as it was, seemed too two dimensional. Maybe it is just me, but somehow her performance seemed to detract from the rest of the film, so at the end I felt it would have been a much better film without her. Visually, it is a sumptuous film, beautifully captured and edited with great care. Overall, engaging and revelatory.
Sam Goldwyn said "A Jew can't play a Jew. It wouldn't look right on screen." Crass words from the legendary studio mogul, but in Joaquin's case he is right. Israeli TV comic Moni Moshonov is also miscast, his phony accent is awful. Isabella Rossellini, however, is great as a Jewish immigrant. 3.5 stars, not bad if you like love movies.
Other than Gwyneth Paltrow, whose acting ability has suffered ever since she discovered Goop, the cast is solid. Hardly what I would call brilliant or even particularly insightful, but still it's character-driven, and one doesn't get to see Isabella Rossellini enough. Joaquin is always interesting.
You think you want the shiksa goddess, but you don't. "What're you? One of those reader types?" Gwenneth cannot portray anything besides herself, a very superficial person. They are both very annoying people in real life, which gets in their way of trying to portray sympathetic people. Everything else about the movie is definitely above average.
Gray's like a kammerspiel Michael Mann, giving loving treatment and a few small but inspired tweaks to very familiar material. Here it's the nice Jewish girl vs. wild shiksa trope; it's the first time I've seen it played so seriously (except for that exercise bike in the background of the last shot--brilliant!). Beautiful but predictable; recalls The Godfather (again), Philip Roth and, at its best, Dostoyevsky.