(Photo courtesy of The Celebrity Spot)
Two Lovers, is another movie that features Sheepshead Bay and Brighton Beach, but is not available for viewing here. The film was not showing at UA Sheepshead Bay, so I had to go to the one theater in Brooklyn where it was — in Cobble Hill.
In a Daily News article, Denis Hamill writes that the owner of the theater, Harvey Elgart, personally chooses the films that play in his theaters. Elgart grew up in Sheepshead Bay, so that might be the reason why he decided to run this film. Although the Cobble Hill Cinema was small, the “big screen” was just wide enough to contain the Ocean Avenue Bridge as it appeared in the opening scene.
Last week the film’s main star, Joaquin Phoenix, or Wah-Keen — as fan, Ally, refers to him on her dedicated website — acted a little “wacky” on David Letterman’s Late Show. Many have speculated that his new bearded look and announcement that he is leaving acting for a career as Rapping Phoenix, is just a publicity stunt to get people out to see Two Lovers, but we have reason to doubt that — especially, because the film is barely even in the theaters.
Read more about the movie after the jump.
There wasn’t any high-tech cinematography, animation, or sound effects, but when I saw the characters waiting for the Q train on the Brighton Beach platform, then talking on the subway while the recorded public address announced the Sheepshead Bay station, I cheered as if I was watching the latest sci-fi action film.
Joaquin — who has Hungarian, Russian, Jewish, Catholic, and Puerto Rican roots — fit into the Brighton Beach scenery and gave the the movie an air of authenticity compared to Gwyneth Paltrow. The movie strikes a familiar chord, but there were a few minor things that were distracting. The film gave the impression that Leonard Kraditor’s father and mother were both Russian Jews, while at the same time making it seem as if his mother was other than Jewish, maybe even Italian. That may have something to do with Isabella Rossellini playing Mrs. Kraditor.
In some scenes, there was the impression that the families are observant Jews, mentioning High Holy days, celebrating a Bar Mitzvah, and doing matchmaking for the kids. In one scene, the Kraditor family orders in Chinese food and I couldn’t help but wonder where the Kosher Chinese restaurant is in Brighton Beach.
When the Jewish characters celebrated New Year’s on December 31 with a party at their home and Leonard talked Totonno’s with his romantic rival while dining at San Domenico’s in Manhattan, it brought home the point that in our South Brooklyn melting pot, traditions get, well, melted.
Sheepshead Bay residents who reside in a large, unrenovated building, will recognize the familiar black and pink tile in the Kraditor bathroom. They will, also, understand how easy it was for the character to distract himself by peeling off some tape on a pole after he got shut out of a Manhattan night club. It’s little details like these that brought a realistic feel to the film.
Joaquin gave us a good study into the behavior of a regular guy living in Brighton Beach and working at his parents’ dry cleaning store, Brighton Cleaners. I say regular, because the character he plays, Leonard Kraditor, lives in a simple apartment with his parents after suffering a serious mental breakdown caused by heartbreak. His mental state is one explanation for why he finds himself involved with two lovers. He’s not a country music legend, space traveler, or emperor — just a guy with love problems.
This romantic drama was low-key and played with little drama or comedy. The film captured an interesting drab, yet refreshing feel when compared to all that excess Hollywood emotion seen at the Academy Awards.
Even the opening scene, where Leonard tries to kill himself by jumping into Sheepshead Bay, seems like something anyone might do in a deep depressed impulse. His attempt at suicide is so nonchalant and done on his way to deliver a customer’s drycleaning. After he is saved, he just catches his breath and acts like nothing happened back at home in Brighton Beach.
This past year was good for all those eighties actors we hadn’t heard from in a while: Robert Downey, Jr., Mickey Rourke, and Sean Penn. But, Joaquin is the one that I won’t forget for a while, simply because he walked down our
Brooklyn roads — specifically, Coney Island, Brighton Beach, and Emmons Avenues.