'Love Is Strange' — And Funny, Hard And Heart-Breaking

Love is Strange stars John Lithgow and Alfred Molina as a couple whose marriage, after 39 years together, is the start of a very complicated story.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

TESS VIGELAND, HOST:

And this late in August, Hollywood summer blockbusters are mostly played out which means there's room at the Cineplex for more thoughtful movies. Critic Bob Mondello says "Love Is Strange" qualifies - a film that takes seriously the wedding vow phrase, for better or for worse.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: When we meet Ben and George, they have been together longer than they have been a part - 39 years. And you can see they're in love as they prepare for their big day - the wedding they never dreamed possible when they met. It's in a New York City park where they're surrounded, as the pastor notes, by a lifetime's worth of friends.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "LOVE IS STRANGE")

JASON STUART: (As Officiant) For everybody who's here, I'd like to ask of you if you would commit to honor and support these two individuals and their love and their life and in their marriage together?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: Yes.

MONDELLO: Those shouted vows will be tested more quickly than the ones taken a moment later by John Lithgow's Ben and Alfred Molina's George. George works as choir director at a Catholic school. And almost as soon as he gets back to work...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "LOVE IS STRANGE")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) The bishop wasn't happy.

MONDELLO: ...He's told he's being let go.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "LOVE IS STRANGE")

ALFRED MOLINA: (As George) And what about the students? I've known them since they were kids - and their parents. They've been to my house. They've played on my piano. They've sung with Ben and me.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) The decision is effective immediately.

MONDELLO: With George now unemployed and Ben on Social Security, they can't keep up mortgage payments or qualify for a rental. In short order, they have to go back, hat in hand, to those friends who were so supportive at the wedding.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "LOVE IS STRANGE")

MOLINA: (As George) Now we invited you all here today because, well, you're family.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) Are you telling us you're getting divorced already?

JOHN LITHGOW: (As Ben) No.

MOLINA: (As George) We have to sell the apartment. And we found a buyer already. So pretty soon we're going to have to move out. Now it won't be long before I get another job. And it shouldn't be long before we find another apartment. But in the meantime...

LITHGOW: (As Ben) It's just a transition phase. Probably just a week or two.

MOLINA: (As George) We need a place to stay.

MONDELLO: The friends want to help, but this is New York. Space is tight. Ben ends up on a bunk bed in his 15-year-old grandnephew's room, George on a living room couch many blocks away - a solution of sorts. But days stretch to weeks - lifestyles clash.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "LOVE IS STRANGE")

LITHGOW: (As Ben) Someone's just turned up with a bloody baby.

MONDELLO: Everyone chafes.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "LOVE IS STRANGE")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As Character) Uncle Ben, my friend is here. We need to work on a school presentation.

MONDELLO: And the elderly couple who'd been so happy together for so long find themselves separate and alone, though as Ben notes, at one point, sort of surrounded by intimacy.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "LOVE IS STRANGE")

LITHGOW: (As Ben) When you live with people, you know them better than you care to.

MONDELLO: Working with the situation that sounds almost sitcom-ish - after 39 years together, 10 minutes married and the whole thing comes apart - director Ira Sachs conjures a quietly affecting love story - two men differing in age and accent and temperament showing us their relationship mostly through interactions with other people, which must've been tricky, though John Lithgow and Alfred Molina make it natural - no histrionics, only a few tears, quite a bit of humor, really. The title gets it just right - "Love Is Strange," and it'll break your heart. I'm Bob Mondello.

VIGELAND: And Monday on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, Alfred Molina and John Lithgow will talk with Melissa Block about bringing this love story to the screen.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.