Frowning at ‘The Face of Love’ - The Buffalo News

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Frowning at ‘The Face of Love’

Her husband, it seems, liked his weed. On a marital getaway to Mexico, his wife joked that he may have been the only man ever to smuggle pot into Mexico.

Usually, his weed liked him back. It made him loving and generous and convivial. To listen to him talk on that Mexican getaway from Los Angeles, it made both tequila and life taste better.

Until he got high and went for a late-night swim and drowned.

It’s difficult to know exactly which dulled capacity led to death in his well-baked state but it’s the weed that his widow blames for the death that left her bereft.

Flash forward five years. His widow – who used to haunt the Los Angeles Art Museum all the time – goes back to it one day. And there, on a bench in the open sunshine, is a man who is a dead ringer for her dead husband. He’s played by the same actor, Ed Harris.

He’s the double that, in the questionable folk wisdom, we’re all supposed to have somewhere in the world – and, if not that, the double that has been fueling our fictional narratives, high, low and in-between, for a millennium or so (certainly since the 19th century in a concentrated way.)

To say that she misses her late husband doesn’t begin to cover it. She’s been completely adrift since his death. She has apparent wealth, a spectacular house he designed (the house is Annette Bening’s most important co-star in the film, believe me) and a daughter in her mid-20s who’s searching for romantic permanence.

That sudden apparition on the museum bench is too much. She finds out from his Jeep Wagon windshield that he’s got a faculty parking sticker at Occidental College. She looks him up on the school’s website, stalks him (essentially) and begins a relationship with him.

“The Face of Love” is a kind of granddaughter of “Vertigo,” and a distant upscale Los Angeles sister of the dark and creepy current Toronto doppelganger fantasy “Enemy,” with its mind-boggling ending.

The trouble here – and I’m afraid it’s close to fatal to “The Face of Love” – is that its ending is absolutely dreadful. It is, to coin a phrase, all wet (i.e. beyond soggy). Any tantalizing Hitchcockian vibes you were getting from the film – especially from its droplets of pseudo-Bernard Herrmann music – were a bit of a conjurer’s trick on the part of director and co-writer Arie Posin, who seemed to have the Lifetime or Oxygen TV networks on his mind.

I have no doubt that some will leave the theater satisfied with what they’ve just seen but I wasn’t one of them.

Posin is certainly a stylish filmmaker on the level of cinematic technique (the house the film was made in helped a lot). And his stars, Bening and Harris are grand cinematic company for 92 minutes of screentime, especially Bening, who is always a pleasure to watch on the job and who has made far too few films while living a complicated domestic life with husband Warren Beatty. (See “Star,” the Beatty biography by Peter Biskind.)

It was wonderful, in theory, to see her again in a small indie fantasy co-starring Robin Williams in the stereotyped Gig Young/David Wayne best friend role.

But the expression on the faces of a lot of us when the film is over will not be those of love. They will be something else entirely.

If you want a doppelganger movie this evening, “Enemy” is the one that will clear out the memory of this in a hurry.


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