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‘Love’ offers touching take on life

Alfred Molina and John Lithgow in “Love is Strange.”
Alfred Molina and John Lithgow in “Love is Strange.”
Roger Moore McClatchy-Tribune

“Love is Strange” is a sweet, random little nothing that pairs up John Lithgow and Alfred Molina as a longtime couple whose lives change, for the worse, when they finally get married after same-sex marriage becomes legal in New York.

George (Molina) is promptly fired, in the nicest way, by the priest (John Cullum) who runs the Catholic school where George teaches music.

Ben is a retired painter, and without George’s income, the two have to sell their apartment. Since finding another place to live in Manhattan may take a while, being older and on fixed incomes, they summon friends and family to pitch in.

Uncle Ben goes to live with his favorite nephew (Darren E. Burrows of “Northern Exposure”) and the nephew’s author-wife (Marisa Tomei), and George moves downstairs with the party-happy, young, gay cop friends (Cheyenne Jackson, Manny Perez).

And everybody’s miserable ever after.

This Ira Sachs (“The Delta,” “Married Life”) comedy is thin on laughs but long on charm. There’s real tenderness generated between the two leads, who started their film careers with wonderfully sympathetic gay and transgender performances decades ago – Molina in “Prick up Your Ears,” Lithgow in “The World According to Garp.” “Love is Strange” never goes far wrong when they’re sharing a scene, singing a duet at the piano at a party, embracing in tears over the separation.

Complications include the incessant partying of young gay men on the make where George lives, Tomei’s Kate struggling to write with an elderly chatterbox under her roof, and her rebellious teen (Charlie Tahan), who adores Ben, bristling at prolonged exposure.

Ben understands.

“Sometimes, when you live with people, you know them better than you care to.”

Sachs’ film has a lovely “New York is getting too expensive to live in” subtext, with all the rent control and regulated senior rent schemes that people who don’t work on Wall Street finagle to find a domicile in the city.

And through it all, George and Ben dread the thought of relocating to cheaper, roomier Poughkeepsie to live with Ben’s niece (Christina Kirk).

None of it adds up to much more than a chuckle or two, a smile or three and a lot of slow, poetically drawn-out moments of mild anguish or the simple delight of walking through Greenwich Village in the spring.

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