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'Two Lovers'

February 26, 2009|Betsy Sharkey

If you caught the strange one-act play that was Joaquin Phoenix on "Late Night With David Letterman" just days before his most recent film, "Two Lovers," landed in theaters, it might be tempting to scratch the film off your must-see list. Don't. Phoenix's performance in writer-director James Gray's film represents possibly his best work in an already accomplished career. In Leonard, the troubled 30-year-old at the center of the film -- more child still than adult, a breakdown having forced him back into his parents' home -- Phoenix exposes layers of complexity and vulnerability. It is an exceptionally moving film with beautiful performances also turned in by Gwyneth Paltrow and Vinessa Shaw, the two women Leonard becomes involved with. Phoenix has said "Two Lovers" will be his last film, that hip-hop music will become his creative outlet. Maybe the music will be enough for him. For us, though, I can't imagine the songs will ever replace the sensation of watching his genius on screen.

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-- Betsy Sharkey

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