Meet Bradley Smith — he’s an almost typical Greg Kinnear character: Affable, hopelessly optimistic in terms of love, and obliviously self-involved, so much so that he fails to recognize when his considerably younger wife (Selma Blair) falls for another woman, as the two are sitting next to him in a bar after a softball game (the softball field clearly being the hotspot for single lesbians). A few weeks later, Bradley’s wife has left him, and he hardly knows what to make of the situation, other than to latch onto a dog that eerily resembles him.
Thankfully, his best friend and a frequent patron of his coffee shop, Professor Harry Stevenson (Morgan Freeman), is a wizened moral compass that offers advice to direct him northwards in the ways of love, helping Bradley to pick himself up off his feet and almost immediately fall madly in love with another woman, a generically sexy blond realtor, Diana (Radha Mitchell), who clearly becomes involved with Bradley by default — the caddish prick that she actually loves is a married man who refuses to leave his wife and family. Meanwhile, Harry himself is having troubles of his own — he’s on an extended leave of absence from the university following his son’s death, a death that he blames himself for, though obviously no character played by Freeman could ever actually be at fault for the death of anyone, unless kindness actually does kill.
Elsewhere, the ill-fated twentysomething Oscar (Toby Hemingway), a barista in Bradley’s shop, falls immediately in love with Chloe (Alexa Davalos, who is insanely pretty), a woman who catches his eye as she’s peering into the coffeehouse. They are clearly meant to be, though a psychic has forewarned Chloe that Oscar is not long for this world, a revelation that actually sends her headlong into the relationship instead of away from it — such is the “bravery of love.”
And, of course, in Feast of Love all these relationships are interconnected in some small but insignificant way, and the story of their love lives is narrated by Freeman, because … well … that’s what Freeman does: He comforts, he advises, and he narrates. And if that sounds a bit sarcastic, I don’t mean it that way. In theory, I suppose, it’d be easy to tire of Freeman’s lot in cinema, destined to both narrate and play a variation of the same character for the rest of his life. But, to be honest, I’m OK with that: There’s comfort not only in the expected, but in Freeman’s ability to inject wisdom in even the most tedious of clichés. He’s guaranteed to make even the worst of films at least tolerable (Hard Rain, notwithstanding).
Likewise, I have several complaints with Robert Benton’s Feast of Love, but none that I feel inclined to share: It’s a soporific, sometimes lethargic meditation on love that feels as though it’s being delivered by your grandfather, someone you humor out of respect, even if the once virile man has one foot in the nursing home. And I’m all too willing to humor him here because, for all its faults, I can’t help but think that this is the exact movie that Benton intended to make. At 75-years-young, I’m not eager to despoil a great director’s perfectly acceptable, inoffensive film with a bunch of punk-ass sarcasm. I suspect that to Benton — who won an Oscar for writing and directing 1979’s Kramer vs. Kramer, about the break-up of a traditional marriage — Charles Baxter’s source material feels a little racy. And hell, you gotta give the man who wrote Bonnie and Clyde a little latitude in his old age, right?
Not that I’m necessarily recommending that anyone under the age of 50 go see Feast of Love, but it’s not a terrible movie by any stretch: It’s just a lazy, old-time country-lemonade film full of Sunday afternoon BBQ conversation, lots (and lots) of tasteful erotica (i.e., sexually uninteresting but easy on the eyes) and platitudes that I suspect looked a lot less platitudinous on the written page. It’s slow, but not boring; sweet but not precious; and engaging but not really that entertaining.
Chuck Klosterman once wrote, in describing his hatred of Coldplay, that Chris Martin’s band was a knock-off of Travis, which itself was a knock-off of Radiohead. I suppose you could say that Feast of Love is the Travis in that equation: It’s thoughtful, but not deep. Likable, but not grating. And while it’s not original or groundbreaking, it doesn’t bleat, “Look at the stars, look how they shine for you,” and tell you it’s profound, either. Indeed, if Feast of Love were a pop song, it’d be “Why Does it Always Rain on Me?” both in meaning and in tenor. And your iPod could do a helluva lot worse than that.
Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba. He lives with his wife and son in Ithaca, New York. You may email him, or leave a comment below.
Feast of Love / Dustin Rowles
Film Reviews | September 28, 2007 | Comments ()