Josh Lucas is a moderately talented actor who has made a successful career out of being the poor man’s Matthew McConaughey. But he’s certainly not talented enough to go the Serious Actor route and disguise his gorgeousness under flabby flesh. Yet that’s exactly what he does in the ludicrous Death in Love, which overwhelms his slender talents to leave him drowning in a pool of self-conscious dialogue.
The failure of the movie is hardly attributable to Lucas, or co-stars Jacqueline Bisset and Lukas Haas. I’m afraid the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of writer-director Boaz Yakin, who left behind mainstream films like Uptown Girls and Remember the Titans to afflict audiences with this tedious tale of a Jewish woman (Bisset) who survived the Holocaust by sleeping with a Nazi doctor and how her dark past screwed up her two adult sons (Lucas and Haas). Since Yakin’s screenplay has delusions of art-house grandeur, he has refrained from naming any of his characters. So, to set the record straight: Lucas is the one who pleasures himself frequently—when he’s not taking out his self-loathing on the women he cons into paying money to his ersatz modeling agency. Haas is the one who has issues with food and agoraphobia.
Yakin states in the press notes that, due to the extreme nature of his movie (what with his juxtaposing scenes of Nazi experiments with scenes of sex, exploiting the Holocaust as shorthand for brutality), he and his wife financed the entire enterprise. “It was very freeing,” he is quoted as saying, “because I didn’t have to cater to anyone or anything…”
Among those particular ideas is that watching three characters squirm in discomfort, depression and self-disgust makes for enlightening moviemaking. It does not. Rather, it makes for a viewing experience akin to watching one’s overly self-dramatizing college roommate continue to make the same mistakes over and over again.
One of Yakin’s more serious ideas was an attempt to prove that depression in adult males is nothing to be ashamed of. But perhaps his message would have been better received had its conduits not been such loathsome human beings so that their self-disgust is entirely well founded. Lucas may be the one who touches himself in the film, but Death in Love is one extended masturbation session for Yakin.
Death in Love
Directed by Boaz Yakin
Runtime: 96 min.
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