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DEATH IN LOVE
Written & Directed by
Boaz Yakin
Produced by
Yakin & Joseph Zolfo
Released by Screen Media Films
USA. 96 min. Not Rated
With
Josh Lucas, Jacqueline Bisset, Lukas Haas, Adam Brody, Vanessa Kai, Fabrizia Dal Farra & Morena Baccarin
 

Death in Love starts with a bombardment of sex. A son interrupts his mother with her lover, then, flash-forward, the boy is now grown-up and played by Josh Lucas, who morosely philosophizes about turning 40 with beautiful, naked young Morena Baccarin. Heís seen in far more modest camera angles during a flashback montage of his rough sex encounters with a series of anonymous women, but those memories donít help him much when he tries to masturbate his way out of depression. Watching TV on 9/11 doesnít cheer him up either.

While at least the title character in the recent Adam Resurrected came by his psychosexual problems from direct experience of degradation in the Holocaust, here the neurosis is, of course, the motherís fault. In her flashbacks to imprisonment in a concentration camp, she (portrayed by Fabrizia Dal Farra) seduces a Mengele-type doctor to survive and even falls in love with him. She has now grown old in New York City as a domineering Jacqueline Bisset, with heavy jewelry and a mittel-European accent. Her past is colliding with the present as her old good-in-bed German tracks her down and her many lovers. (She met her American husband in postwar Paris.) Her younger son (Lukas Haas) is a musical genius beset with OCD, and is even more screwed up while still living at home. With heavy Freudian shadows, their father is always an obscured figure, barely heard or seen.

Just when I was perversely hoping that the dragon lady (Vanessa Kai) partnering in the older brotherís S & M episodes was the product of a family scarred by Asian killing fields so that this psychobabble could be more universal than just another arty exploitation of the Holocaust, she is also revealed to be his boss in a fake modeling agency, and he as a flimflam man. His successful con is charming women for substantial fees, and not just as acrobatic bedmates.

And just when I was fed up with the stilted dialogue, Adam Brody appears as the new hotshot in the office and steals the movie with lively banter that sparks some honest talk. (Thereís an amusingly ironic exchange as Brody, who came to prominence playing Seth Cohen on TVís The O.C., professes heís a gentile admirer of the uses of Jewish guilt.) Seeing himself in the ambitious young man, the jaded Lucas thinks he is taking on a mentor role, with added hints of a bromance. He eloquently explains how he cruelly targets the not pretty girls with low self-esteem, sounding a lot like the retro guys in Mike Nicholsís Carnal Knowledge.

All these strands from the past and present come together, ensnaring each member of the haunted family. Even as the frustrated audience can already see the truths, secrets, and manipulations congeal around the characters, they seem impotent to stop being victims. Nora Lee Mandel
July 17, 2009

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