Feast of Love ***
Directed by Robert Benton
Written by Allison Burnett, based on the book by Charles Baxter
Morgan Freeman as Harry Stevenson
Greg Kinnear as Bradley Thomas
Radha Mitchell as Diana
Billy Burke as David Watson
Selma Blair as Kathryn
Alexa Davalos as Chloe
Toby Hemingway as Oscar
Stana Katic as Jenny
Erika Marozsán as Margaret Vekashi
Jane Alexander as Esther Stevenson
Fred Ward as Bat
Margo Martindale as Mrs. Maggarolian
Missi Pyle as Agatha
102 Minutes(Rated R for strong sexual content, nudity and language. )
I watch different types of films in different types of ways. For example, I don't quite watch "Across the Universe" in the same way that I would watch "Mr. Woodcock," only because one film was actually made it try to be good, and the other was made to make a quick buck and to pass off as comedy. I am not as hard on movies like "Mr. Woodcock" because in my eyes, if they are successful in what they try to do-be a harmless little PG-13 comedy to make kids laugh on a rainy Saturday-than they did their job. Movies like "Feast of Love," even though it was playing at one of the top art houses in NYC, really is nothing more than a romance film, and if it manages to tell a good love story-or in this case a few-than it is a success. I only bring this up because I saw this the same day as Ang Lee's new film "Lust, Caution," and gave that a much lower rating than this. But I expected a certain something from that film. With "Feast of Love" you know what you're getting into, and its remarkably entertaining for what it was.
"Feast of Love" is based on the novel by Charles Baxter-which adds a "The"-and I just finished the book a few days ago. Of course since this film is a very faithful adaptation, I had to relive it all again, but these are characters that are fun to watch (and read about for that matter) and I did not mind. The novel is quite hard to adapt given the way its told. Baxter writes himself in the novel, and he interviews the characters-Bradley, Diana, Kathryn, David, and Chloe, as well as a character in the film but in a different form-and its all for a project called The Feast of Love. In the film, instead of Baxter being there, we have Morgan Freeman as Harry Stevenson, the other character from the novel who is probably the least written about, the connector of the various stories and characters. Each chapter of the novel is told in the narrative of one of these characters, which makes for interesting tone change and perspective. Film its hard to do something like this. Harry goes out walking one night after not being able to sleep, and reflects on the last few months. He is a regular at a coffee shop called Jitters, run by Bradley Smith (played by Greg Kinnear.) Bradley is married to Kathryn (Selma Blair) who realizes that she is in love with another woman and leaves him. Bradley, dejected and depressed, goes to great lengths to get his feline companion Bradley JR back, after his sister, who was watching him, ends up bonding with it. He eventually meets another woman, Diana, who seems to be more interested in her lengthy affair with a married man, David, than her upcoming nuptials to Bradley. We then meet Chloe and Oscar, two young lovebirds that, when they are not climbing on top of one another, are planning their futures, even though it might turn out bleak. And then we have Harry living through all of this love, married to his long term wife Esther, and even though he is great at dishing out advice, he has a problem that he can't get over himself.
Now I really did prefer the novel over the film, as is most cases, but like the novel, the movie manages to be so true and deals with the topic of love very well. I am sucker for relationship movies done right-movies like "The Hottest State," "Before Sunset," and even "Once" to a certain degree. When love is shown right on the screen it could be quite lovely. And here we get little snippets of relationships, character experiencing love in all different ages and periods, and it all really is handled quite well. We have terrific performances, almost all around. Morgan Freeman does his usual-he narrates the movie, gives advice to sad people, and for the first time in a while gets an added dimension of his own. Greg Kinnear really is the only person that could play Bradley. Bradley, and Kinnear for that matter, have that sheepish quality-rather sweet and even innocent in a way, despite being destroyed so many times. Radha Mitchell does something very different here than I've seen her do, playing a more cold and cruel person-channeling her work in "Melinda and Melinda" more than anything. The only real bad acting work here is Toby Hemingway, who plays Oscar, and I could never see that bad boy image that we are supposed to. I checked the IMDB to see his previous work, and "The Covenant" seemed to be his biggest credit-and that was an awful awful picture. And the subplot involving his evil father-a creature known as The Bat-works in the book because that subplot goes somewhere, but here its only hinted at at times, and they never make the full plot circle with him.
Despite bleak scenes, and rather depressed and cynical characters, "Feast of Love" is really a story about hope and new beginnings. Despite heartbreak and depression, and even though nobody is perfect, everyone does want someone to love and even has love to give. And the ending ends on a rather sad note, but also one full of hopeful resolution to come. Endings are always there at the beginnings, it's just a constant cycle. This is a true romance story for adults, and I'm shocked, and even slightly pleased, but the general release it got. It's a good film.