Two Lovers

Joaquin Phoenix plays Leonard, a Jewish guy who, on the verge of suicide by rejection of his fiancé, simultaneously falls for two women at once: One, a carefree existential live-for-the-moment Gentile girl upstairs and a nice plain jane no make-up good Jewish girl. This seems to be a blatant parable about the universal ubiquitous inner struggle in all men, that fantasy temptation that is ever present to “give it all up” or “throw it all away” for the exciting, the romantic, the dangerous, instead of choosing the safe, security of a woman of good character. The Gentile, played by Gwyneth Paltrow, is a drug addled mindless partying adulteress who, like most adulteresses foolishly pines for her adulterer to leave his family, believing that he will then be faithful to her. But none of this matters to Leonard, because she incites his passion with her existential living for the moment. There’s just something about the power of passion when you “follow your heart.” Meanwhile, the plain Sandra, played by Vinessa Shaw, is kind, gentle, devoted and stable and has the proper family connections for tradition. Leonard fornicates with both women, making it that much harder for him to see clearly. At the last moment, Leonard chooses to throw it all away and run away with the Gentile, but is stopped at the last moment when she throws it all away to return to her faithless adulterer after he leaves his wife. This is what you get when you choose a life of throwing it all away for a passionate feeling, you lose it all. The movie leaves one with a strong sense of disatisfaction as Leonard is able to return then to the “woman of character” without her even knowing his failed choice, as he then gives her the wedding ring he had bought for the adulterer. It’s like a consolation prize of passionless yet stable life. I think it would be a truer reality if Leonard had lost both of the women. Of course, one could argue, that he was entering into his own punishment of inauthenticity. When we make bad choices of character we reap the consequences of an inability to know real love. This story seems to indicate that when you follow your heart and seek for passion instead of character, you miss out on real life.