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Lead Morgan Freeman
Director Robert Benton
Producer Tom Rosenberg, Gary Lucchesi, Richard Wright
Banner Metro Goldwyn Meyer
Feast of Love
Story Charles Baxter
Screenplay Allison Burnett
Editing Andrew Mondshein
Camera Kramer Morgenthau

Review by R. Samala
Rating: /5
Rating Reference: 1-Bad; 2-So So; 3-Can watch once; 4-Well made, must watch; 5-Exceptional work;

Feast of Love - Review
Director Robert Benton started his film career as a writer with 1967 film "Bonnie and Clyde". He debuted as director with "Bad Company," in 1972. Over the 40 years of span he made around 11 films like Nadine, Twilight, The Late Show, Kramer vs. Kramer, Nobody's Fool, Still of the Night, Places From the Heart, Billy Bathgate and his last film, The Human Stain. Besides establishing careers for actors like Dustin Hoffman (Kramer vs Kramer) and Sally Field ("Places in the Heart") his films won numerous Oscars, including three for Benton himself. The most important thing is all his films explore the different layers of humanity and human relations to be specific. With his latest film Feast of Love-a romantic comedy-drama, Robert Benton's tries to reveal the mystery of the ultimate human emotion, love.

The plot with multiple-story-line revolves around a series of love stories involving different people living in the same locality. Bradley (Greg Kinnear) and his softball player wife Kathryn (Selma Blair) are ideal couple. Bradley, an artist and an optimist who own Jitters, a coffee shop, believes love is everything and the only meaning of life. But he doesn't notice his wife's growing unhappiness and lesbian attraction towards Jenny, a teammate. In reality that he's more in love with the idea of love than with his wife. Though she told him that she hates and fears dogs, he forces her to visit an animal shelter, where she named a dog "Bradley". Meanwhile Kathryn developed a lesbian affair with Jenny. When Bradly brings dog home as anniversary present, she says he is uncaring idiot and leaves him for good and runs off with Jenny.

Bradley is shattered and thinks that he will never love again. One rainy day a beautiful lady realtor Diana walks into his coffee shop and Bradley instantly falls head-over-heels in love with her. But Diana has been having an affair with the married David who wouldn't like to leave his wife for her. So Diana marries Bradly. In a short time, 6 weeks, Diana tries to re-establish contact with David. But he turns it down as she is married now. At the pre-climax, she accidentally meets with David in a park and learns he is divorced and available. She leaves Bradely to re-unite with David. Bradley screwed again and heart broken. In a moment of angst, Bradley cuts his finger, is taken to a Dr. Vikashi for treatment and ends up falling in love again. This time the feeling is wholly mutual.

On the parallel tracks, there are two couples representing the tender love at first sight and matured old love. Oscar, an young guy who works in Bradley coffee shop and Chloe, a beautiful girl who steps into the coffee shop for a job and instantly falls in love with Oscar. It's a love at first sight. David has problems. Poor financial conditions, alcoholic abusive father and fatal heart disease. Oscar and Chloe share dreams for a perfect future despite all these problems. Their love grows strong and deep. Chloe asks Oscar to marry her even she knew that Oscar is going to die.

On the contrary to this young couple, there is this old couple Harry and Esther, genuine and matured lovers, struggling with the recent death of their only son. Harry is a former university professor and a regular at Bradley's coffee shop and gives advices to the people around him. Professor Harry (Morgan Freeman) narrates the threads of the people's lives around him throughout this film,

Morgan Freeman as Professor Harry and Jane Alexander as his wife Esthar are the standouts as the old couple. Morgan voice over added depth and meaning to the events of the film. He always is a joy to watch. The middle aged couple Bradley and Diana, played by Greg Kinnear and Radha Mitchell respectively, is particularly well done. Toby Hemingway and Alexa Davalos are the young couple, Oscar and Chloe. They are so sweet and adorable. BILLY BURKE plays a married man David. He did extremely well in emotional confrontations though he looks rigid. SELMA BLAIR and her lesbian companion Jenny (STANA KATIC) were good. All other performances were pretty good.

Cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau has done a wonderful job. The film is a visual feast with his lighting. He captured the lush exteriors of the city of Portland in all its splendor and natural beauty. The ideal love making scenes shot well. Lighting scheme in interiors evokes the mood of romance. The largely static camera some times tests the patience of viewer.

The music is good. The background song Hallelujah elevates the romantic mood between Davalos and Hemingway. The sparingly used background score makes the film very dull and stagnant. And it resembles with the score of "Constant Gardener". Editing could've been crisp.

The story is indeed a feast of love. Allison Burnett's (Autumn in New York) screenplay is very smooth and rich with multiple types of love among different people of different age groups. Robert Benton direction is good. It definitely not his best work, but didn't fail in engaging the viewer. He succeeded infusing life and energy which was lacking in his last film "The Human Stain". He handled it with grace and elegance of a master. His approach is old-fashioned, serious and philosophical. Dialogues are mostly one liner and wonderful. Some of the beautiful dialogues here for you:

1. The film opens with Morgan voice over saying….
"There was a story about the Greek gods. They were bored, so they invented human beings. But they were still bored, so they invented love, then they weren't bored any longer. So they decided to try love for themselves. And finally, they invented laughter. So they can stand it."
2."Sometimes you don't know if you've crossed a line until you're already on the other side and, of course, by then it's too late."
3. "I think love is everything; the only meaning we have to this crazy dream."
4. Bradley says, "I'm the happiest man alive"
5. Morgan explains to his wife his day to day experiences outside. Wife asks "Did I miss anything today". Morgan says: "Nothing, just a cool breeze, softball game and two women fall in love with one another".

1. It appears a bit of a stretch.
2. The serious drama juxtaposed with whimsy scenes creates unevenness.
3. Too many sub-plots (drunken father of Oscar, porn video episode) make it tiresome.
4. Chloe predicts Oscar's death (and still propose marriage) through a fortune-teller is unconvincing and making her sacrifice stupid. Benton should have gone for a scientific way to uplift her love.
5. Unconvincingly, doctor falls in love with the crazy guy who just chopped his finger because his wife left him.
6. Most importantly, the frequent nudity and on screen-sex puts you off. Virtually the entire cast (except old couple Morgan and Alexandra) indulge in sex making it unabashedly adult film. You end up thinking that the film's quest is not for the "meaning of love", but for the "meaning of sex". Nudity does not convey intimacy- emotions convey intimacy.
7. Lack of depth and intensity allow you to be neither sympathetic with any character nor be emotional with drama.

I heard that Feast of Love bombed at box-office in Hollywood. You may not like the entire film. But it's still a very good one, with fine performances, comic writing and a few scenes that are quite moving. Watch it once.

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