The Good: Acting, Characters, Dialogue
The Bad: Pacing!, Abrupt resolutions
The Basics: Good acting and interesting characters make up for a film that seems to gloss over some meaningful moments in the story.
These days, it seems that most of the movies I take in on DVD I find by watching other movies on DVD. That was the way I found Feast Of Love, a film that sold me from the previews I saw when watching another film. After all, director Robert Benton did not grab me with the last movie of his I saw: he wrote The Ice Harvest (reviewed here!). But the preview of Feast Of Love looked too good to pass up and so I decided to give it a spin.
Largely, I enjoyed the movie and my "recommend" is much more firm than my rating. I enjoyed Feast Of Love, which is a rather able romantic drama, but it suffers in too many places from being a movie. Romance in films is rushed and though I might seem biased as I am not usually a fan of voice-overs, the voice-overs from Morgan Freeman's Harry Stevenson at the end of the movie are just plain terrible. Instead of taking time to illustrate key scenes, they are simply told to the viewer and this is an unfortunate conceit in a movie where relationships come together and fall apart (television, on the other hand, tends to have enough time to breathe and thus makes for a much better medium for realistic romance stories).
The wise college professor Harry Stevenson is on sabbatical following the death of his son, which has left him somewhat estranged from his wife, Esther. He has taken to spending his days wandering, observing and hanging out at Bradley Smith's coffee bar. Harry and Bradley are friends and they end up watching one of Kathryn's - Bradley's wife - softball games and afterward, Harry observes Kathryn falling in love with a woman from the visiting team. As Bradley's marriage falls apart, young ex-junkie Oscar falls in love at first sight with Chloe, who easily reciprocates his love.
As Oscar and Chloe struggle to pay the rent and grow their love, while avoiding Oscar's psychotic, alcoholic father, Bradley begins a romantic relationship with his realtor, Diana. Diana, who has been sustaining an affair with a married man, provides a real chance for Bradley to find love and happiness, despite the fact that the pair has moved into a house that seems to have been the downfall of several romantic relationships (conveniently this puts Bradley right next door to Harry).
Unfortunately, the trailer has key lines in it that indicate exactly how Bradley's relationship with Diana ends, but I shall not repeat them here. D'oh! Okay, so his relationship with Diana ends and, unfortunately for the flow of the film, the woman who next enters Bradley's life is given such a truncated appearance that the relationship is never truly believable. And that's the serious drawback throughout much of Feast Of Love. I like movies that have big casts, a lot of characters to keep track of and stories that interweave. I can live with that. In Feast Of Love, there are essentially three couples (Harry/Esther, Oscar/Chloe, and Bradley and whomever he is with at the time) and most of the time is spent on Bradley and his romantic flailings.
The problem is Bradley's two post-Kathryn relationships both appear to be missing pretty significant chunks to them and the viewer feels a bit jerked around by the absence of the scenes of important growth for the character and his romantic self. Cheating that with the voice-over near the end just feels cheap.
This is not to say that Feast Of Love is bad; it's not, but the pacing is seriously off. Actually, one of the nicest things about the movie comes in the character of Harry. Harry is presented as an erudite, solid character who could be one of the Greek Gods he speaks of in the opening monologue, he is that great. Portrayed by Morgan Freeman, Harry instantly connotes a wizened, credible professor. But the genius of how Harry is presented is that he is not omnipotent. The reason so many smart people need therapy is because we (humans) all have blind spots. We may be exceptional in some areas, but in the areas that hit us most deeply, we often cannot see straight. Harry, who is presented as easily the smartest character - both in terms of reason and emotions - has a huge blind spot and his friendship with the young Chloe finally exposes that blind spot to him. His character arc is one of the most subtle and deepest in the entire movie.
The most obvious arcs come from Bradley, who has far more obvious blind spots. Bradley wants to believe in love so much that he doesn't see what is, he idealizes his relationships instead. So, for example, when he takes Kathryn to a kennel to see dogs, he becomes convinced that she is over her hatred of dogs because she tolerated one of the dogs she saw there. That type of naive blindness is difficult to watch, but essentially human and works wonderfully for viewers to empathize with Bradley. Of course, half the time, we are simply frustrated by how Bradley doesn't get it, but it works.
Bradley is played by Greg Kinnear and he is the perfect everyman for the role. Kinnear has the ability to slouch slightly to connote deep emotional wounds in his character even before he begins to speak. And when Bradley is in love and believes everything in his life is fine (blinders firmly attached) Kinnear holds himself up with a confidence that seems perfectly natural and real.
The cast is rounded out with performances by Selma Blair (Kathryn), Jane Alexander (Esther), and Fred Ward (Oscar's father, Bat). But for a change it is young actors who made me truly appreciate their characters: Alexa Davalos as Chloe and Toby Hemingway as Oscar. First, the pair has great on-screen chemistry. From the first moment Davalos appears on screen, there is no doubt in the viewer's mind that her character wants exactly what Oscar wants and Davalos manages this without speaking. Second, each actor is fearless in their portrayals. Hemingway has the look of an ex-junkie in this, but he manages to make the audience believe fully that he has put that life behind him. As for Davalos, a quick trip over to the IMDB revealed to me that this was not the first thing I had seen her in, so I have to say that I was impressed by how she played scared. Davalos had very tough roles in Angel and The Chronicles Of Riddick (reviewed here!) and I never made the association with her often terrified and very young-seeming character in Feast Of Love. Truly, this is her master performance.
On DVD, Feast Of Love the film looks and sounds good, but it comes with no real bonus features. There are cast biographies of the players, but that's it. This is pretty disappointing for a film of this caliber. In general, this is a worthwhile drama likely to satisfy most.
For other films featuring Morgan Freeman, please check out my reviews of:
The Dark Knight Rises
The Dark Knight
Lucky Number Slevin
March Of The Penguins
War Of The Worlds
Million Dollar Baby
Driving Miss Daisy
Check out how this film stacks up against others I have reviewed by visiting my Movie Review Index Page where the works are organized from best to worst!
© 2012, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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