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Two Lovers

A sad New Yorker struggles between fulfilling crazy desires and old loyalties

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Joaquin Phoenix says this is his last movie, and if indeed it's the end of his acting career, his role in James Gray's low-key drama isn't a bad finish. Phoenix plays Leonard, a troubled, aimless man who still bunks with his parents in New York's insular Brighton Beach. Out of kindness, he dates the nice Jewish girl (Vinessa Shaw) whom his parents like, but his yearning, romantic heart is won by a new neighbor (Gwyneth Paltrow), a messed-up beauty who uses Leonard as a foil in her ongoing affair with a married man. Gray's two previous films (The Yards, We Own the Night) have tried to penetrate the broody vastness of New York's outer boroughs, but in those films he fell back on crime plots. Here, it's simply Leonard (in a soulful turn by Phoenix), who in spite of all his caginess, personifies the sprawling city's tensions between shiny affluence, wild abandon and deep-rooted stability, as well as the unbearable smallness of one person's sadness when it's cast against all those other people. Starts Fri., Feb. 27. Manor

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