Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Groovy Movie: Keep the Lights On for the amazing Thure Lindhardt
While watching director Ira Sachs' emotional drama, Keep the Lights On, I was reminded of the 1941 Duke Ellington hit, "I Got It Bad (and That Ain't Good)", which pretty much sums up the film's story. The lead character of Erik, a documentary filmmaker in New York City, meets and quickly falls in love with Paul, a closeted lawyer who enjoys using crack cocaine right before sex. We then sadly witness their relationship sour over the course of nine years (1998-2006) as Erik helplessly watches the man he loves spiral downward into addiction. At one point Paul disappears for days until Erik finds him strung out in a swanky hotel room and proceeds to hold his hand while he allows a prostitute to fuck him. I would think most self-respecting folks would draw the line at this incredibly disturbing moment - I know I would - and tell the trick to leave. But Erik has his own addiction problem - and Paul is his drug of choice. He refuses to give up on him and their relationship, despite the increasingly dark times that they face. And although I admired him for this deep conviction, at the same time I just wanted him to let go of Paul and move on with his life.
Keep the Lights On is not an easy film to enjoy, but the amazing performance of 37-year-old Danish actor Thure Lindhardt is what kept my rapt attention from beginning to end. I was not familiar with Mr. Lindhardt before, but now I consider myself a fan. His Erik is a sweet and hopeful romantic who will do almost anything to hang on to his guy. It's heartbreaking to watch the character struggle to keep his and Paul's love alive - and it's some of the best acting I've seen this year.
Zachary Booth (who played Glenn Close's son on TV's Damages) is also quite good as Paul. This is not an easy role to play because Paul is rarely that pleasant to be around, and Booth does not shy away from showing us a young man in desperate need of help. I do wish I could've understood Paul and his inner demons better, but even though the film is mainly focused on Erik, Booth still does an admirable job of making us feel some sympathy for his character. I also liked actress Julianne Nicholson as Erik's friend and a hunky Sebastian La Cause as a very "masculine" phone sex hook-up.
Back in 1962, Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick starred in Days of Wine and Roses as a young couple whose relationship is threatened by alcoholism. This classic film shines a harsh but honest light on addiction - and now 50 years later, Keep the Lights On does the same with its own unflinching perspective. It doesn't matter if the characters are gay or straight. Both love stories are equally moving as they explore a bleak and often painful darkness.
Keep the Lights On opens on Friday (October 26) at Chicago's Music Box Theatre (3733 N. Southport). For showtimes and ticket information, click here.
My Grade: A-
Running time: 101 minutes