In the Bible, the writer of the book of Proverbs reminds his readers that they are to “guard their hearts” and in Jeremiah the prophet reminds his readers that the “heart is deceitful above all things.” Robert Benton’s new film “Feast of Love” is a reminder of what happens when people fail to keep these truths in mind.
Starring Greg Kinnear, Morgan Freeman, Alexa Davalos and others, the film is the dramatic story of several relationships, the lives of their various parts intertwined in various ways. Kinnear plays Bradley, an amateur artist and middle class coffee shop owner who is happily married – or so he thinks. Then one day, his wife falls in love with another woman, moves out, and Bradley is forced to move on. Then he meets Diana (Mitchell) with whom he enters into a passionate relationship. However, unbeknownst to Bradley, Diana is in the midst of an affair with a married man.
Meanwhile, over at Bradley’s coffee shop, his young employee Oscar (Toby Hemingway) has fallen in love with the beautiful and eccentric Chloe′ ( played well by Alexa Davalos) and they too enter into a similarly passionate relationship.
Throughout it all, Morgan Freeman plays Harry, an elderly, sage-like, philosophy professor who frequents Bradley’s shop and to whom the characters go for wise advice. It is from his point of view that the story is told.
During the film we see the highs and lows of relationships, particularly the highs of passion and the beginning of relationships, and the lows of passion gone wrong: infidelity and consequences. And indeed, the film speaks on some very profound levels at times. It reminds its viewers that successful relationships take work, honesty, openness, dedication, and sensitivity. It reminds viewers that all actions have consequences and that passion alone will not a relationship make.
The film is full of several passionate scenes of lovemaking, scenes which most viewers will find uncomfortable and which many will want to avoid. However, at times, Benton seems to be using these moments to display the depravity of the characters and their lack of true, pure, unselfish love, and to suggest that there is more to love than sex.
Yet, at the same time, there are characters who do display unconditional and sacrificial love and their actions, though bordering on melodramatic at times, are moving.
Many reviewers have pointed out, and perhaps rightly so, that several of the characters are simply unlikable, and thus the film falls flat. However, I think it is important to watch the film as it is presented: through Harry’s eyes. Played excellently (though probably he could have done this role in his sleep) by the veteran Freeman, Harry is an experienced old teacher, who has had his share of personal tragedy and who understands the natures of loss and of true love and who extends his own affections to his friends. It is through his eyes that the other characters are seen. It is he who most truly exemplifies rightly ordered love.
Ultimately, “Feast of Love” is an up-and-down experience. The script, though profound at times, often seems contrived and enters into the realm of melodrama too much. The performances, other than those of Freeman, Davalos and Kinnear, are so-so, and there are a number of loose threads and unexplained subplots. Thematically though, the film is strong and presents much to think about.
A key motif in the film is the idea of love at first sight and sight in general. Three couples seem to fall in love upon their first meeting, and there are references to cameras, recordings, and other visual technologies. But, in the end, after the ups-and-downs of their relationships, the characters seem to have come to conclusion that sight has very little to do with love. True love anyway.