Love is Strange
Directed by Ira Sachs
There’s been a lot of lamenting lately about the dearth of American films made for grown-ups. Budgets are either micro-minis, which only look good on, and to, those new New Adults, or looming monuments to Mammon, thundering with the power of Almighty Dolby: ENJOY. OR ELSE. Who’s got the eardrums for that kind of entertainment? So here’s a movie written and directed by Admitted Adult Ira Sachs, about mature and married love, family relations, and an apartment search in New York that doesn’t involve a meet-cute—except maybe with the Reaper, as a newly homeless, increasingly desperate couple are told to look into housing for the aging. The gerund is terrifyingly acute: once the process ends, presumably you won’t need a place as much as a plot.
It isn’t only painter Ben (John Lithgow) and his partner of nearly forty years, music teacher George (Alfred Molina) who’re getting on; the New York State Assembly, for instance, has wised up enough to finally recognize relationships like George and Ben’s as marriages. Not so the local diocese: after pictures of their Petra honeymoon surface on Facebook, George loses his job as choir director, and the two are forced to lodge separately with friends and relatives while George looks for an affordable 1BR. Ben goes to Brooklyn, where his filmmaker nephew lives with a writer wife and petulant teenage offspring; George goes down a floor of their old building and bunks with two gay cops.
Because Lithgow and Molina are themselves old hands at the moving picture stuff, their love becomes the opposite of odd. For their friends and family it is the apex and the standard; for Ben and George it is life’s necessary and sufficient quality, equal parts tenderness and tolerance, an unshakeable edifice from which they can never be displaced. But Sachs’s movie ends up being a curious picture nonetheless, what with all New York’s representative types wedged in: the writer who cannot find a quiet corner, the variably Eastern European household help, thieving teenagers, etc. All these act and react just the way you knew they would; their contribution to the movie is, indeed, unfathomable.
Opens August 22