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After The Shawshank Redemption, filmmakers realized that no matter how bad a script is, if you cast Morgan Freeman and give him some profound voiceover narration, the film is bound at least to seem deep. That’s exactly the case with Feast of Love, a ballad on romance that explores three main characters as they strive to maintain romantic relationships. Unfortunately, even with Freeman’s legitimizing presence and quality performances all around, the film is too abstract for its own good, musing on love instead of actually exploring it at the expense of believable relationships and engaging characters.
After Freeman’s character Harry Stevenson opens with a tale about how the Greek Gods invented love as a form of entertainment and then laughter to cope with it, he meets up with his pal Bradley Smith (Greg Kinnear), whose wife is playing in a community softball game. Bradley is so obsessed with the idea of his picture perfect relationship, he can’t see that his wife Kathryn (Selma Blair) is considering batting for the other team, literally. Kathryn has time enough to show her boobs in a quick lesbian sex scene before leaving Bradley and the film for good.
Before the ink even dries on his divorce papers, Bradley quickly falls for blond bombshell Diana (Radha Mitchell), who sells him a “cursed” house that they eventually share, though she remains tangled up in an affair with a married man, David (Billy Burke). As Bradley’s love life unfolds like the train wreck that it is, the film finds hope in the impetuous love affair between two young baristas Chloe (Alexa Davalos) and Oscar (Toby Hemingway). Meanwhile, Harry and his wife Esther (Jane Alexander) struggle to find their way back into one another’s arms after the shocking death of their son.
The film’s choppy structure means there is little chance for any character development as any attraction is immediately followed by a gratuitous sex scene, marriage, and then divorce, without exploring any of the subtle idiosyncrasies that make relationships relatable and interesting. The film constantly pushes the barrier of reality, especially in scenes intended for comic relief like one where Bradley’s dog is held hostage by his seven-year-old nephew. Meanwhile the actors all give extremely powerful performances especially Davalos and Freeman, but their acting falls flat because you’re never given a chance to connect to the characters. This is especially problematic for characters like David and Diana because, while love may conquer all, it doesn’t excuse cheating on your spouses and subsequently breaking their hearts.
Ultimately, even Freeman’s profound summary of the film’s events isn’t that profound: “The unexpected is always upon us, and of all the gifts arrayed before me, this one thought at this moment in my life is the most precious, and so we begin again.” This line is meant to give some meaning to a film that felt more like an ode to breasts than love, but the quote, like the film itself, doesn’t really mean anything at all.
This widescreen edition DVD has little in the way of features and doesn’t necessarily pop on screen, mostly because the choppy editing style makes it feel like the DVD is skipping all the time. The sound quality is also particularly disappointing – though it is offered with DTS Surround Sound and Dolby technology, I constantly had to pump up the volume or rewind just to catch what the actors were saying.
There is an interesting featurette called “The Players” that talks about the casting of the film, which is essentially an ode to the actors. You can’t help but laugh when the producer mentions casting Freeman gives the film a “bonafide quality” as if he knew that Freeman would make it seem better than it actually is. Overall, the feature is almost depressing because it highlights the quality performances from “everyman” Greg Kinnear and Radha Mitchell, which never amount to anything in the film.
The DVD is offered with Spanish subtitles but lacks any other language tracks for foreign viewers. Considering the film doesn’t exactly stand on it’s own, the DVD might have benefited from more features, especially a commentary track. I would have loved to hear the director explain some of his more abstract decisions like why he had five fifteen-second sex scenes that didn’t seem to contribute to the film whatsoever. Even a blooper reel would have been a nice addition although in the end, no amount of features could save Feast of Love from being one disappointing meal.
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