Lithgow and Molina shine in Love is Strange

by Mark Burger

As strange as it may sound, John Lithgow and Alfred Molina make one of the most warm-hearted screen couples of the year. Without resorting to stereotype of any kind “” not even for gently comedic effect “” their wonderful on-screen chemistry is the lifeblood of Love is Strange.

After nearly 40 years together, Ben (Lithgow) and George (Molina) have decided to make it official by getting married, much to the delight of their friends and family. But their union has an unforeseen consequence when it costs George his job as a music teacher at a tiny Catholic school in New York City.

Having spent so much of their lives together, the two men are therefore uprooted and separated, albeit temporarily, while their financial situation is sorted out, and they can afford another home. Ben stays with relatives, George with friends “” and it’s not long before both men are miserable.

Ben and George are so likable and charming “” and so harmless “” that when their hosts become exasperated or annoyed by their presence, the hosts come off as petty and disagreeable, which definitely tips the story’s dramatic balance, sometimes precariously.

The film is at its best when Lithgow and Molina are paired onscreen. They’re an irresistible pair, their characters’ longstanding affection for each other unmistakable even when unspoken. With all due respect to the supporting cast (which includes Marisa Tomei, Darren E. Burrows, Christina Kirk and Charlie Tahan), the momentum of the story definitely sags when the two stars aren’t together.

Yet whatever its narrative drawbacks, including a not-unexpected sentimental ending, Love is Strange is unquestionably a success and a pleasure due entirely to its star duo. When John Lithgow and Alfred Molina are together, love is in the air “” and there’s nothing strange about it.