Summer 2009 Summer Films series
Sunday, June 7, 2009 at 8:00pm
Directed by James Gray
Screenplay by James Gray and Victor Menello
Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Gwyneth Paltrow, Vinessa Shaw, Moni Moshonov
Rated 14A ·
Leonard (Joacquin Phoenix—in what he claims is his last acting performance), is a surly, stunted fellow living with his Orthodox Jewish parents in Brooklyn. Leonard gets set up with Sandra (Vinessa Shaw), the lovely daughter of the man buying out his family’s dry-cleaning business, and she’s just sensitive enough to take to his morose charm. But he also hears the siren song of another—the sweet, gorgeous, deeply troubled Michelle (Gwyneth Paltrow), who has moved into his building.
James Gray’s film (which had an ecstatic world premiere in Cannes) has no frills or hooks, nothing but the fragile humanity of the people on screen. Mopey, sallow, and nearly mute, Leonard seems a fatally broken man. But Phoenix, in a feat of acting that keeps revealing new layers, gives Leonard mordant flashes of insight and sex appeal. As his spirit awakens, so does the movie. From O. Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly