Reviewed by: Sara Bickley
|Featuring:||Morgan Freeman, Missi Pyle, Selma Blair, Greg Kinnear, Radha Mitchell, Alexa Davalos, Toby Hemingway, Jane Alexander, Fred Ward, Shannon Lucio, Billy Burke, Stana Katic, Erika Marozsán, Julie Vhay, Sherilyn Lawson, Kate Mulligan, Alex Mentzel, Kathleen Mattice, Todd Chatalas, Belle Suzanne Raymond, Adam Ross Whiting|
“The Ice Harvest” (2005), “The Human Stain” (2003), “Double Jeopardy” (1999)
|Producer:||Lori McCreary, Gary Lucchesi, Tom Rosenberg|
|Distributor:||MGM Distribution Company|
This film is based on Charles Baxter’s book The Feast of Love.
“A story for anyone with an appetite for love.”
Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “In a coffee shop in a tight-knit Oregon community, local professor Harry Stevenson witnesses love and attraction whipping up mischief among the town’s residents. From the unlucky in love, die-hard romantic coffee shop owner Bradley who has a serial habit of looking for love in all the wrong places; to the edgy real estate agent Diana who is caught up in an affair with a married man; to the beautiful young newcomer Chloe who defies fate in romancing the troubled Oscar; to Harry himself, whose adoring wife is looking to break through his wall of grief after the wrenching loss of a beloved… they all intertwine into one remarkable story in which no one can escape being bent, broken, befuddled, delighted and ultimately redeemed by love’s inescapable spell.”
“Feast of Love” is not a comedy. I feel compelled to say this, because the trailer, which focused on the witty dialogue and feel-good scenes, did a good job of making it look like one. The film itself is a kind of high-minded soap opera: moody and thickly-plotted, and not at all lighthearted.
Morgan Freeman plays Harry Stevenson, advisor and confidante to the young people whose unstable romantic relationships make up the bulk of the narrative. His own marriage (to Esther, played by Jane Alexander) is strong and loving, and has survived a tragedy that would have driven many couples apart. He is the moral center of the film.
Its narrative center is Bradley Thomas (Greg Kinnear), who has relationships with three women over the course of the story’s eighteen-month timeline.
The first is Kathryn (Selma Blair), his wife of six years, whom he does not know nearly as well as he thinks he does. Near the beginning of the film, she is seduced by another woman (Jenny, played by Stana Katic) and leaves him.
After a period with only his dog for company, he meets a real-estate agent named Diana (Radha Mitchell), and soon finds himself with both a new house and a new wife. Unknown to him, Diana is already in a relationship with a married man (David, played by Billy Burke).
Bradley’s second marriage inevitably unravels, leading him to meet his third love under circumstances I would rather not spoil. I will say, however, that the screenplay gives her too little attention; there is not much support for Harry’s assertion that she is the person Bradley was meant to be with.
In the mean time, Bradley’s employee Oscar (Toby Hemingway, handsome and intense), begins a sexual relationship with a woman named Chloe (Alexa Davalos). Despite financial troubles, the disapproval of Oscar’s abusive father, and a psychic’s warning, they form a deep emotional bond, which culminates in marriage.
If all this sounds a tad labyrinthine—it isn’t. “Feast of Love” is never confusing; the pacing and editing are first-rate, and the actors (all perfectly cast) imbue their characters with strong personality. Every character’s arc is easy to follow. (Perhaps too easy: the narrative is neat and wrapped-up in a way that, were it not for the film’s other merits, would seem simple-minded.) Gorgeous cinematography and a strong feel for the Portland, Oregon setting create an engaging viewing experience.
On a deeper level, the movie is less engaging. Moral and philosophical issues are hinted at, then dismissed with platitudes.
“You can’t hold someone’s love against them,” says Harry; this is supposed to be the key to every relationship portrayed in the movie. It certainly comes through in the ending, which is simply too nice to the characters: almost everyone is neatly paired off, with old resentments and insecurities forgotten. Even David and Diana end up together and happy, having apparently escaped not only the spiritual, but also the social and emotional consequences of their earlier adulterous relationship.
As for blatantly offensive content, “Feast of Love” becomes more objectionable as it goes along. There is no bad language for about the first twenty minutes, and the lesbian affair is given a soft, inexplicit treatment.
Then we see Kathryn and Jenny lounging in bed, naked to the camera; the scene could be called innocent, at least compared to what follows, but it marks a definite change in tone. Afterward, the film is filled with both male and female nudity—sometimes casual, sometimes in the context of graphic sex scenes. The amount of on-screen sex is atypically high compared to similar “women’s movies.”
Harsh language also abounds. The Lord’s name is profaned at least half a dozen times, and there is a fair amount of vulgar and scatological language (mostly in the scenes between Oscar and Chloe) and sexually-based expletives (mostly in the scenes between Diana and David).
Violence is fleeting and serves the story. Scenes include face-slapping, threats with a knife, and an instance of deliberate self-injury (with visible blood).
The film contains a few drug references, which are treated with the seriousness they deserve. Oscar is a former heroin addict, now in a twelve-step program; another, unseen, character is dead of an overdose.
“Feast of Love” is not for those easily offended, easily influenced, or easily frustrated. The main reasons to see it, in my opinion, are the beautiful visuals and smart performances; the story itself only stands in the way.Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Heavy
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.