Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini

The Face of Love

The Face of Love
Annette Bening, Ed Harris and Robin Williams 

Rated: PG-13 for brief drug references.
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: March 7, 2014 Released by: IFC Films

Annette Bening and Ed Harris (often remembered from American Beauty and Pollock, respectively) are the kind of seasoned performers you'd like to see opposite one another. Even in a tale threatened by its plotting, sentiment, and banal wind-up, they don't disappoint.

From flashbacks, about five years ago Bening's Nikki has lost her architect husband Garrett (Harris) in a tragic water mishap while on vacation in Mexico. While her spirit has waned since then, a calm, resolute demeanor has kept her going. She even has kept a safe distance from friends and suitors like Roger (Robin Williams).

Nikki's life gets a rejuvenation while at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art when she spots a man, Tom, Harris again, who looks just like Garrett. She pursues the instructor painter at the local university investing time with him to be her private tutor. This twilight fantasy can mitigate the misery with a kind of unconditional, even mad love that can be rather overwhelming for Tom whose heart is definitely aflutter.

How one appreciates the film might be affected by Nikki's decision to keep her personal life from Tom as their relationship kindles as one is reminded by a poster of a Hitchcock classic on an unlikely reunion of two souls. The tale doesn't get too garrulous as much talk stems from occupations like Nikki's real-estate "stager." While Williams isn't that memorable here as a third-wheel, Jess Weixler projects the kind of neediness of an older adolescent daughter that is honestly reflected even in irksome form.

There's something heartfelt and pleasing of watching how the Nikki/Tom dynamic unfolds through their fears and wishes even as circumstances always seem to derail the hope springs eternal concept. Especially that should resonate more for middle-aged folks and their older counterparts. Others, who may not get much emotionally out of The Face of Love from a steady modest bonhomie from Harris and a finely understated Bening may be riveted more by director Arie Posin's work on the production, especially the plush design work that delineates the very attractive lived-in quality of the indoor spaces.

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