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A Feast Of Love For Robert Benton

 

Monday, August 6-------Two-time Academy Award winner Robert Benton was especially eloquent as he was interviewed by film critic Janet Maslin at the Jacob Burns Film Center in Westchester County last Wednesday evening, following the screening of Benton's latest film, FEAST OF LOVE. The ensemble drama, based on Charles Baxter's acclaimed novel, features a superb cast headed by Morgan Freeman, Greg Kinnear, Jane Alexander and Radha Mitchell. The film will be released on September 28th by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

The film, originally set in Michigan but transferred to Portland, Oregon, follows the interconnecting stories of several married friends, who endure loss and love in a forever-changing puzzle of human emotions and aspirations. Freeman plays a philosophy professor on an extended leave of absence following the drug overdose of his only son. His neighbor and good friend, played by Greg Kinnear, is a likeable (if slightly dull) fellow who owns a coffee house, whose track record in staying married is shaken when his first wife goes off with a lesbian lover after years of (supposedly) happy marriage. Radha Mitchell is an aloof and mysterious real estate agent who becomes Kinnear's second wife, all the while maintaining an adulterous relationship with an amoral married man. Alexa Davalos and Toby Hemingway play two young (slightly punkish) free spirits who find each other and keep alive the possibility of eternal love (which, alas, is not their fate either). How pain reinforces life's fragility is one of many themes in this deep-felt film, which Benton has directed with his usual sensitive touch.

Benton, whose long list of writing and directing credits include BONNIE AND CLYDE, KRAMER VS. KRAMER and PLACES IN THE HEART, came onto the project once a script was already in place. "The novel is wonderfully expansive", Benton explained in the after-screening interview. "But there were just too many tangents and too many characters to be contained in the film. We had to trim the focus to the key players, and leave certain things off-stage." Benton had wanted to adapt the novel himself several years ago and approached Lakeshore Entertainment, the film's producers, but was told that they already had a director and most of the cast attached. That relationship apparently foundered, so Benton was given the chance to direct the film and do some adaptation of the already written script by Allison Burnett. "In a project like this one, casting is the most crucial element", Benton continued. "The film is already such a showcase for the right kind of actors, and reads so beautifully, that choosing the right people only enhances the story beyond the written page."

Alexa DavalosAlexa DavalosAs important as the recognizable leads was the casting of the young people who intersect with the lives of all the major protagonists. Alexa Davalos is a 25 year old former fashion model, born in France, whose beauty and natural luminosity has distinguished her work in THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK (2004) and the HBO made-for-television film AND STARRING PANCHO VILLA (2003). In FEAST OF LOVE, she stretches her dramatic wings in a part that requires that she be both sexy and soulful, and absorb the tragic ending of the story with grace and dignity. Toby Hemingway, is a blond British-born actor who learned his craft acting on stages in London and New York. He is best known for his work in the sci-fi film THE COVENANT (2005). In this film, his slightly punkish look (the character in the novel was apparently much more extreme) does not obscure an innate sensitivity. His is the character who loses the most in FEAST OF LOVE, but also serves as the catalyst for the remaining cast members to rediscover their lost dreams and humanity.

While the film explores the infinite variety of love (paternal love, sibling love, filial love, romantic love), it also is not hesitant to delve into physical and sexual love, featuring a good amount of nudity and sexy canoodling. This certainly does exist in the original novel, and Benton does not shy away from some rather explicit love making scenes. Is it too much? "There was alot more sex and nudity in the book than we actually showed in the film", Benton declared. "I think that is much better to have an audience want more and show them less. In the film, I wanted to portray the intimacy of sex as being the most precious aspect of it." The film, not yet rated, could be slapped with an R rating for the casual nudity and explicit sexual couplings. While sex certainly does sell, according to Benton, the true theme of the film is "about hanging in there....dealing with the things that life throws your way, and attempting to find solace in a sense of community and family, even if it is not the traditional nuclear family  that we are all taught to prize." In the film, love can cut both ways, and by being unpredicatable, maintain its power and poetry. For more information and to view the film's trailer, log on to: http://www.feastoflovefilm.com

Sandy Mandelberger, Coming Attractions Editor

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About Coming Attractions

Sandy Mandelberger
(International Media Resources)

Previews of Upcoming Films, Videos and New Media Coming To Theaters, Festivals, DVD and the Internet.


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