Feast of Love
Not even an all-Morgan Freeman cast could drain the sap from Feast of Love, a movie so cheesygratuitous nudity and allthat it wouldn't make the cut in an Oprah movie club.
There is something more than a feast of love being force-fed to us in this movie; it's closer to all-you-can-eat buffet o' syrup, but that is admittedly not an inviting title. Either way, the entangled melodrama in Feast of Love is too much to digest. The movie centers on several love stories, or perhaps more specifically the Oregon coffeehouse that serves as the de facto hub of said stories. The café's owner, Bradley (Greg Kinnear), is responsible for most of the tales, since women leave him left and right. In fact, the movie opens with Bradley's wife (Selma Blair) ditching him for a woman. Then there's Harry (Morgan Freeman), the Yoda of love, who advises Harryand everybody elsein the school of relationships. Finally, there's Oscar (Toby Hemingway), a young barista in the café whose lust for his new coworker (Alexa Davalos) goes requited. The carousel continues with Bradley's misfires, Harry's philosophizing about them and Oscar's blossoming relationship until the movie exploits our lack of attention to detail at the end. That's when the big "intersecting" storyline is meant to swoop in and leave us in awe over the many splendors of love, or the Feast thereof.
It says something when even a classic Morgan Freeman performance can't bring Feast of Love a smidge closer to realism. In other words, he can't be blamed for headlining an untenable movie. Feast greatly simplifies what a longtime vet like Freemanor his screen wife, Jane Alexanderunderstands and the rest of the cast doesn't: less is more. He refuses to buy into the melodrama under which this movie wants to operate, and that refusal is what makes his relationship the only palpable one. Elsewhere, a "more is less" mode of thinking seems to take over. Kinnear, further pigeonholing himself as the embodiment of blissful ignorance (i.e., Little Miss Sunshine, The Matador), can score laughs with ease but can't evoke anything subtler, especially pity. Meanwhile, Radha Mitchell (Melinda and Melinda) as Bradley's second wife (following a barely there Selma Blair), displays some promise before her role spirals out of control and into Overacting 101, which she passes with flying colors. But nobody exaggerates like the cast's youngest members, Hemingway (The Covenant) and Davalos (The Chronicles of Riddick). Of course, the screenplay is responsible to a certain extent for their hamming it up, but simply put, their couple seems much more Shakespearean than contemporary American. Case in point: When Davalos deadpans, "I think my intensity scares guys off," it can't be anything but eye-roll worthy.
By now it's hard to fathom that Feast of Love director Robert Benton is the Robert Benton of Bonnie and Clyde and Kramer vs. Kramer fame. His movies have been on an extremely steep decline ever since those landmark achievements, and his latest brings that decline one step closer to a crash landing. Feast is not unlike many romantic comedies in its inability to replicate real lifeonly...it's supposed to be a dramedy! But while the humor aspect is there and connects, drama to Benton and writer Allison Burnett (Resurrecting the Champ)who adapted Charles Baxter's undoubtedly more entertaining bookseems to mean nudity aplenty and/or soap-opera dialogue peppered with F-bombs. It's as though the director, in sculpting his characters, has never met a real-life couple, because two of the three couples are caricatures, with Freeman and Alexander narrowly saving theirs from being so. That might've worked if the movie were a romantic comedy in earnest and didn't try to wax poetic with a tidy wrap-up ending. But it's all so unrealistic, almost supernatural in its conclusion, that Feast is the sort of movie that arouses the love cynic in you, not the believer.
Hollywood.com rated this film 1 1/2 stars.