Put nine people in a room together and ask them their philosophy on love and you're bound to get nine different opinions where some mutually meld and others are miles apart. That's what happens in Feast of Love, a story based on a novel by Charles Baxter about love of a spouse, friend or child.
Harry Stevenson (Morgan Freeman) is a professor on hiatus while attempting to get over the loss of his and wife Esther's (Jane Alexander) grown son to a drug overdose. Harry is like a playground monitor in his own neighborhood. He notices when the house next door becomes occupied and then the inhabitants move out quickly and go their separate ways. Harry thinks the house is haunted by a negative spirit.
A regular at the local coffee house, Jitters, Harry spends time talking with Bradley, (Greg Kinnear) the owner, but mostly observing the people who come and go. He seems to have an inner sense about them, or maybe it's just that in this stage of his life he takes the time to figure out what makes them tick.
It's one night while sharing a drink with Bradley and his wife Kathryn (Selma Blair) that Harry makes a distressing observation. There with Kathryn's baseball team, Harry notices when Jenny (Stana Katic), a member of another team, comes to the table and literally tries to pick up Kathryn.
Harry goes home and pops open a bottle of wine, a ritual he does with Esther whenever he sees someone fall in love. When Esther asks who it was this time, Harry says it was two girls at the bar. Only days later Kathryn leaves a heartbroken Bradley, telling him he never really knew her.
When Harry observes Chloe (Alexa Davalos), a beautiful young girl, come into the coffee shop looking for a job, he watches how Oscar (Toby Hemingway), the employee behind the counter, reacts. Harry warns Bradley he better hire the girl or he may be looking for someone to replace Oscar.
Chloe and Oscar are soon inseparable but their courtship is marred by Oscar's dark and volatile father (Fred Ward). He's a drunk who never sees the truth in anything. Oscar moves out, and he and Chloe find another place to live.
Harry likes the kids and becomes a father figure to Chloe, giving her advice as he does Bradley, who falls in love again. This time it's the perfect match, a realtor (Radha Mitchell) who sells him the perfect house. When Harry pops in to announce he lives next door, he also mentions his suspicion about the house. Little does Bradley know as he laughs that a married man named David (Billy Burke) will make Harry's suspicion come true.
What I like about Feast of Love is that it's not a simple, straightforward story. Filled with passion, sexual tension, tender moments, pain, and apprehension, the movie is never boring and has unanticipated elements, especially of hope.
This is helped by the terrific cast. Freeman (Gone Baby Gone) and Kinnear (Little Miss Sunshine) have worked together before in Nurse Betty and are like a left and right bedroom slipper making a perfect fit together. Freeman, one of our greatest actors today, can fit a role like a peel on an apple. Likewise for Kinnear who can coast the fine line between comedy and drama and land evenly on both sides. Jane Alexander, an amazing actress who worked with Benton in Kramer vs Kramer, is another solid performer in the film.
Young talents Alexa Davalos (The Mist) and Toby Hemingway (The Covenant) are both excellent. Not only do they create sexually charged characters, they display a wide range of emotions throughout the film, especially Davalos, who really stands out in her scenes with Freeman where they become a catalyst for healing each other's wounds.
Feast of Love, wasn't a big hit when it came out in September, 2007, but I think it's a good DVD to own. Although there are a few cliché moments, the story has enough depth to be watched more than once.
Unfortunately, with lots of potential from this great cast, there's only one bonus feature on the DVD, "The Players of Feast of Love". In this featurette producers talk about director Robert Benton's laid back style and his casting process. About Freeman Benton says, "He knows how to listen and be still, and most actors don't become actors to listen and be still."
Cast members explain their character and motivations well and help make this segment interesting.
Feast of Love is available on DVD February 5.