Director: John Cassavetes
Screenwriters: John Cassavetes & Ted Allan. Based on a play by Ted Allan
Cast: Gena Rowlands, John Cassavetes, Diahnne Abbott, Seymour Cassel, Margaret Abbott
Run Time: 2 Hours and 21 Minutes
Availability: Not currently streaming. Not available for digital download or rental. On DVD & Blu-Ray in a dual-format edition from The Criterion Collection.
“Love Streams,” the penultimate film from director John Cassavetes, is a cinematic vampire. It’s so boring that by the end of the almost 2 1/2 hour run, I was drained of energy. I’m honestly surprised I had any left to write this review. How this managed to make a list of the greatest films of all time is beyond me.
Sara Lawson (played by Cassavetes’ real-life wife and frequent collaborator Gena Rowlands) is a woman whose life is defined by the relationships with her soon-to-be divorced husband Jack (Seymour Cassell) and her daughter. However, when the daughter decides she wants to live with Jack, she finds her life spiraling out of control. Looking for some stability, she decides to go stay with her brother Robert Harmon (John Cassavetes), a chain-smoking, hard-drinking writer, who suffers from his own relationship issues. He rotates through a series of prostitutes and has a son he hasn’t seen since he was born. When the mother drops him of for a visit, he takes the kid to Vegas and leaves him in the hotel room so he can engage in his own selfish behavior. For as crazy as their lives are, their relationship is the best support system they could have.
I typically like indie character dramas, and in reading the plot synopsis, this sounds like something I would have enjoyed. However, the film is just a chore to get through. The pacing is slow, there is no sense of an arc to the characters, and there is no foundation or structure to the story. It’s a drama without any dramatic tension or conflict. Plot points just seem to come and go. These aspects are actually why critics praise the movie, and to be fair this could have worked, if the movie was entertaining. However, security footage from a mall parking lot probably has more drama, tension and compelling material than anything presented in this movie. Even though there are things I admire about the film, such as the performances from Cassavetes and Rowlands and the almost French New Wave style shot composition, the film itself is just so uninteresting and dull. Leonard Maltin called this title “marginally bearable” and I feel that is being too generous.
Cassavetes is one of the most important directors in American indie cinema. His use of a realistic, cinema verte filming style, and improvisation inspired a whole generation of filmmakers. In a true auteur sense, he was able to make the movies he wanted to make. It’s a shame this film had to serve as my introduction to this work. Furthermore, it’s a shame that was his last “true” film. “Big Trouble” was in actuality his final film, but that was a job where he took over for a director that left and Cassavetes hated that film. Critics consider “Love Streams” to be his truly final film in the auteur sense, and this was not a good title to close out his career with. I hope that the rest of his filmography is more entertaining.
No, I don’t recommend this one. Here’s an idea of how much I don’t recommend it: This title isn’t streaming anywhere online or available for digital rental/download, so I had to go to Barnes and Noble and pick up a physical copy. I want to take this to a used record or book store and get some store credit and buy something else. The only people who I feel may enjoy this title are those who are already established fans of John Cassavetes. It’s such a dull viewing experience that I don’t know who else could possible like this. Here’s an idea for other titles to view instead. The film was produced by Cannon, yes the same company that made all those action and sci-fi titles in the ‘80s. Check out some of Cannon’s other films, such as “LifeForce,” “Invaders from Mars,” “Invasion U.S.A.,” “10 to Midnight,” or “Cobra.” Those should be much more entertaining.
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