‘The Face of Love’: It’s no ‘Vertigo’
A 2-star review of “The Face of Love,” starring a glowing Annette Bening as a widow who meets her late husband’s doppelgänger.
Seattle Times movie critic
‘The Face of Love,’ with Annette Bening, Ed Harris, Robin Williams, Jess Weixler, Amy Brenneman. Directed by Arie Posin, from a screenplay by Posin and Matthew McDuffie. 92 minutes. Rated PG-13 for brief drug references. Sundance Cinemas.
Arie Posin’s romantic drama “The Face of Love” is, ultimately, about Annette Bening’s face — which quickly becomes the main reason to watch the film. Taking a break from her streak of playing wacky moms (“Girl Most Likely,” “Ruby Sparks”), Bening here plays Nikki, a Los Angeles widow of five years who’s shocked one day to meet Tom, an artist who looks exactly like her late, beloved husband, Garrett (Ed Harris, in both roles). Complications ensue, but you try to tune them out; what’s mesmerizing here is what happens in Bening’s eyes, in her complicated smiles, in her eloquent quiet. She creates a woman who we care about; someone whose face still carries the glow of being in love even years later, and who knows that following her heart toward Tom is foolish yet inevitable.
And then you pull your eyes away from Bening (no easy trick) and realize that “The Face of Love” is, alas, a bit of a mess; kind of a low-rent “Vertigo” with a story that never makes any sense. The camera lingers on the details and tchotchkes of Nikki’s house (designed by Garrett, an architect) like an arty TV design show; Tom’s precisely messy studio is lit like a Vermeer painting. Robin Williams, as Nikki’s wistful widower neighbor, gives a weirdly calibrated performance that seems to be simmering with mysterious subtext; you start expecting “Face of Love” to become a killer-next-door thriller, or at least a Robin Williams movie, but he never gets to do much except show up and look sad. Harris and Bening have definite chemistry but are stuck in a story that has nowhere to go, and that relies too often on unbelievable coincidence.
That said, it’s still a pleasure to spend 92 minutes gazing at Bening, who so rarely gets a chance to carry a film. May she and her fierce honesty return soon, in a better role.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org