“Kramer vs. Kramer” and “Places in the Heart” generated Oscar gold for writer/director Robert Benton. The man was a movie magician because he did the impossible. Sally Field achieved an Oscar. This was a major accomplishment, but “was” is the key word. Both of these movies were made in the 1980’s. After 1984, Benton’s writing and directing has never lived up to those two movies. Now, “Feast of Love” comes into play. This is destined to be another one of Benton’s hits. The cast is loaded with top-notch actors including Greg Kinnear and Morgan Freeman. The storyline contains two major themes: love and overcoming tragedy.
Benton utilizes these two exact themes successfully on his way to winning his three Oscars. This should be a slam dunk, homerun, (enter euphemism here), and should help Benton get back on track. Well, it is not a homerun and I would not even say it is a strike out. “Feast of Love” is the baseball equivalent of being sent to the minors.
A simple plot summary of this movie would be: find love, lose love and repeat. Writing a plot summary for “Feast of Love” is complicated to do since the entire movie involves multiple overlapping relationships. Freeman is the narrator-college professor-mystic who gives all of the major players in the movie advice in life and love. His character is married to Jane Alexander, who Benton had previously worked with in “Kramer vs. Kramer.”
Kinnear owns Jitters coffee shop. He gets married multiple times (wives include Selma Blair and Radha Mitchell) and questions throughout the movie why he never can find permanent love. Also, his wives each have their own subplots. Toby Hemmingway plays a young man, with an alcoholic father (Fred Ward), who works at Jitters. Toby falls head over heels for a girl (Alexa Davalos) without parents. The girl begins working at Jitters. There are many other intertwining relationships within this piece, but these are the main three. The main thing to know is that in the end, everyone finds someone to love.
This movie could be broken down into the title of the Sergio Leone classic, “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” Let’s start with “The Good.” Kinnear, Freeman and Alexander are all wonderful. This is no surprise to anyone who has seen any of their previous films because they are elite actors with years of experience.
However, a relative newcomer (Alexa Davalos) may have upstaged them. Davalos-this glimmer in an otherwise awful movie-may be best remembered for helping Vin Diesel escape from prison in “The Chronicles of Riddick.” She steals the movie with the way she displays emotion through her physical actions (including body language and facial expressions) and through her verbal actions (use of tone, diction, and inflection.) Her performance is reminiscent of Natalie Portman in “Garden State” and this should be a big step in boosting Davalos’s career.
Now the fun part: “The Bad”. Fred Ward, the abusive alcoholic father, did not do anything besides yell, sway and carry a knife. He was never really seen drinking, which is strange for an alcoholic. He mainly swayed in a circle while keeping his feet in place. It was difficult to sympathtize with him or any of the people that he was supposedly affecting. His lack of making an effect made it seem that they could have cut him completely out of the film. Hemmingway, should not have been in the movie. This explains the lack of speaking lines he has in the film and his awful acting looks worse due to Davalos’s brilliance.
Another lackluster part of the movie was the lack of chemistry displayed in the relationships between Kinnear and any actress playing his wife. It made his relationships seem fake and uninteresting.
The movie also contained a vast number of nudity and sex scenes that seemed to be forced into the film. Alexander is the only actress that keeps all of her clothes on the entire movie. The sex scenes and nudity seemed to be a ploy to keep people watching a boring movie. Slow conversations were spiced up with the use of nudity and Benton should not have to rely on attractive actresses to keep his audience interested.
Lastly, “The Ugly.” This movie is terrible. It is a waste of good performances and helped spotlight bad ones. Nudity and sex could not even save this 102-minute debacle. Benton was handed this movie to resurrect his career and it should have worked. The fact that it did not work will hopefully help him to stick to writing. In short do not see “Feast of Love” in the theater. It is not even worth the money to rent the film. The best thing to do is to just forget about this movie and anything subsequently released by Benton.
Tom Pittman is a student at West Chester University. He can be reached at TP623014@wcupa.edu.