Face of Love, The: Starring Annette Bening and Ed Harris

the_face_of_love_posterAnnette Bening and Ed Harris, two of Hollywood’s most intelligent and versatile actors (lacking ego and vanity), deserve better material than what they get in “The Face of Love, directed by Arie Posin and co-written by him and Matthew McDuffe.

The premise, five years after her husband dies, a woman meets sort of his clone (his exact look-alike), is replete of dramatic and comedic possibilities that are not exploited by the director and writer.  But overall, it’s a step down for all involved, including Posin, who had previously helmed “Chumscrubber.”

Beginning with the generic title, the tale is not only overly familiar, but full of narrative contrivances and utterly predictable.  The filmmakers behave as if we have not seen romantic dramedies in a long long time, creating a tale that one the one hand is under-baked and on the other over-baked.

the_face_of_love_4_bening_harrisAs written, the tale alludes to previous and iconic roles of the two leading player, specifically “American Beauty” for Bening, who played a real-estate agent, and “Pollock” for Harris in his Oscar nominated part as the troubled artist.

Bening, plays Nikki, an expert in “staging” houses, namely getting real estate properties and making them feel and look like lived-in homes so that potential buyers.

the_face_of_love_3_bening_harrisNeedless to say, her personal residence in Los Angeles (where else?) is a showcase, a boutique house with a gorgeous pool, designed by her talented and architect husband Garrett (Ed Harris).

Nikki is thrown into a major crisis, when during a trip to Mexico, Garrett, drowns in the ocean, after drinking tequila and smoking pot, turning his beloved wife into a grieving widow.

the_face_of_love_2_beningCut to five years later, when Nikki, now in her 50s, enjoys the company and support of her grown up daughter Summer (Jess Weixler) and her widowed neighbor Roger (Robin Williams), though she still clings to memories of life with Garrett.

When Summer points out that Nikki no longer pursues her hobbies and habits, such as regular visits of the L.A. County Museum of Art, Nikki, feeling reproached, decides to go back. Lo and behold, she meets in the museum a dead ringer for Garrett.

the_face_of_love_1_bening_harrisIntrigued and with plenty of time on her hands, Nikki goes back to the site, and then, almost obsessively repeating her habit of being in the same room and sitting on the chair the day she first spotted the mysterious man.

Soon they begin to talk, and it turns out that the intimate stranger named Tom (played by Harris as well) is an artist suffering from a creative block.  He earns his living as an art professor at a local college, and so Nikki suggests that he also extends his services to personal tutoring.

The second half of the narrative makes the wrong choices for Nikki, who lies to Tom (why?) that Garrett had left her.  But as a character, Tom is too bright and alert to take her assertion at face value. For her part, Nikki spends too much time and energy concealing from daughter and neighbor her new liaison (why?)

The discussion of art, design, rearranging space, are interesting up to a point, until you realize that they serve as a disguise for the scribes’ inability to deal more directly with, and say something more meaningful about, their protagonists’ feelings and their growing attraction.

Even so, there are some touching moments, as when Garrett invades Nikki’s privacy, reentering her thoughts.

The leads, Bening and Harris, acquit themselves with intelligent and decent (but no more) performances.  After decades of being charged with overacting and projecting a too gooey and sentimental persona, Robin Williams underplays in a vastly underdeveloped role (not a good combination).