Joaquin Phoenix is not an actor. Not anymore, he says. He’s a musician.
Announcing his retirement from acting last October,
In a startling, wordless opening scene, we watch bi-polar photographer Leonard (
Sandra Cohen (Vinessa Shaw) is a lovely, caring brunette who makes him feel safe. She’s the girl next door. But the actual girl next door is something else. Wild, mysterious and maybe as damaged as he is, Michelle (Gywneth Paltrow) is a livewire blonde who ignites Leonard every time he sees her. And then she introduces him to her rich, married boyfriend.
Maverick filmmaker James Gray’s rare, special film feels like the best kind of modern love story: one that could have taken place anywhere at any time. He deepens Leonard’s eternal romantic struggle into something dark, intense and enigmatic – powered all the way by a full cast of emotional, compulsive performances.
Paltrow gives her best turn since... well, ever. But it’s
When it comes, the inevitable finale plays out with a subtlety and restraint that’s genuinely wrenching. Even more wrenching than watching a bearded 34-year-old white man rapping in Vegas.
A small, dark, simple love story with big, burning, complex emotions. If this really is Phoenix’s final performance, it’s one hell of a way to go.