The press releases for Feast of Love have tried to promote the movie as “a thoroughly modern version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream." Well, don’t expect any mischievous mixed-up couples here, taunted by fairy folk. Instead the only similarity this movie has with Shakespeare’s classic play is the theme that, “the course of true love never did run smooth.”
Feast of Love is an entertaining look at the concept of love and all the pleasures and plagues that come with it, utilizing several different couples in intertwining storylines, all merged together through the character of Professor Harry Stevenson (Morgan Freeman). The movie is more Last Kiss than Love Actually though; a more realistic look at love and both the good and bad that can come with it, instead of a saccharine celebration of the human emotion.
As you might expect, Freeman plays the soul and conscience of the movie. He is the first to spot whenever one of the other characters falls in (or out) of love. He is also the character everyone else comes to for guidance and advice. That makes things interesting, as he isn’t the optimistic hopeful ambassador of love you’d expect such a character to be. While he and his wife Esther (Jane Alexander) obviously have a strong bond, their family has been struck by tragedy with the death of their son – a death by drug overdose that the parents didn’t even see coming. Because of this, Harry doubts God’s plan for the human race, and even doubts his own advice, dished out through a Socratic method like any good professor. Still, young couples turn to him for guidance and his friend Bradley (Greg Kinnear), looks to him for support through his trials in love.
With the character of Bradley, Kinnear gets a chance to break from the assholish stereotype he’s typically faced with these days and play an innocent, sweet man who truly is love’s slave. He begins the movie with his wife of six years (Selma Blair) who he loves but doesn’t fully see. This becomes evident when she leaves him for another woman. His second relationship is troubled from the start, as the woman is part of an affair before she even gets involved with Bradley. Both relationships give Kinnear a chance to really play a role separate from what he’s done before and show a very sensitive side. It’s a fantastic departure for the actor.
In fact, the cast of Feast of Love is stocked with talented players, which really is a necessity in a movie that has no special effects or action pieces to rely on. This is all about characters coping with love and everything that comes with it: gain and loss, birth and death, and more. Some of the actors are sadly underused (Fred Ward seems like he is arbitrarily thrown in as an angry, abusive father to one of the young lovers) but it’s still a stellar cast.
Feast of Love will appeal to those who like a good love story but are willing to take the good with the bad. After all, “the course of true love never did run smooth,” and there are always obstacles tossed in the path. If you’re looking for a joyous look at falling in love, a meal full of sweets that pleases the heart but is bad for your teeth, look elsewhere. If you’re looking for something more realistic and fulfiling, Feast of Love isn’t a bad dish.