Two Lovers

Rated 4.0

Whether you believe that Joaquin Phoenix’s recent hip-hop and David Letterman-related shenanigans were an Andy Kaufman-esque put-on or the result of performance-weirdening drugs, the seeds for his shtick were sown in James Gray’s off-kilter romance Two Lovers. Phoenix plays Leonard Kraditor, a mumbling, romantically damaged depressive (he even raps freestyle!) who falls for Michelle, the pretty but similarly damaged kept woman (Gwyneth Paltrow) who lives upstairs. Leonard believes they’re kindred fuck-ups, and he pursues Michelle with passive-aggressive zeal, even as he tentatively begins a relationship with the nice girl promoted by his parents. Gray is known for crime films, and Two Lovers benefits from his unusual, realistic take on the romantic comedy. Two Lovers is Gray’s Manhattan, moved from the verbose elegance of Woody Allen’s borough to the gloom of Brighton Beach.