Feast of Love

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Filmmaker Robert Benton finds himself again drawn to places in the heart with "Feast of Love," a tender examination of love and romance in all their ever-shifting permutations. It is based on the novel by Charles Baxter.

Set in a close-knit Oregon community, the film, with its intersecting vignettes, might ultimately feel like more of a sampler platter than a sustaining smorgasbord, but it's effectively rooted in a lovely Morgan Freeman performance.

The MGM release is aimed squarely at an older-female audience with an appetite for something other than Westerns and vigilante movies, and that timing could result in moderately attractive ticket sales.

Finding it particularly hard to make sense of this crazy little thing called love is Greg Kinnear's Bradley, a coffeehouse owner whose personal life is anything but frothy.

First, Bradley's young wife, Kathryn (Selma Blair), left him for another woman, then the real estate agent (Radha Mitchell) he has fallen for on the rebound moves in with him but has chosen not to cut off her clandestine affair with a married man (Billy Burke).

He seeks guidance from Freeman's Harry Stevenson, an on-sabbatical college professor in an enduring, deeply loving marriage to his wife, Esther (Jane Alexander), but while Harry's happy to dispense advice, inside he's still grieving about the fatal drug overdose of their only son.

Rounding out the roundelay is a budding romance between two young coffeehouse employees (Alexa Davalos, Toby Hemingway) with troubled pasts who cast fate to the wind and embark on an intense, urgent relationship.

Benton, working from a sturdy adaptation by Allison Burnett ("Resurrecting the Champ"), choreographs all the comings and goings through the revolving door of love with grace and fluidity, not to mention a great deal of nudity, but the results are more robust than explicit.

While things occasionally get a little soapy around the edges, the encroaching melodrama is masterfully held at bay by Freeman, whose scenes with Alexander are exceptionally moving.

The rest of the cast does uniformly good work, though Fred Ward, who plays Hemingway's knife-wielding abusive dad, has a trickier time trying to put a human face on all the looming menace.

Visually, the "Feast" is quite sumptuous, what with director of photography Kramer Morgenthau's ("Fracture") warm tones and Missy Stewart's earthy production design -- you'd swear you could smell those freshly ground coffee beans in Kinnear's cozy shop.

Aurally, Stephen Trask's emotionally restrained score makes a nice fit with a song selection that alternates between soul-stirring (Jeff Buckley's take on Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah") to silky-smooth (Corinne Bailey Ray fronting the New Mastersounds on "Your Love Is Mine").

FEAST OF LOVE
MGM
A Lakeshore Entertainment production in association withGreeneStreet Films and Revelations Entertainment
Credits:
Director: Robert Benton
Screenwriter: Allison Burnett
Based on the novel by: Charles Baxter
Producers: Tom Rosenberg, Gary Lucchesi, Richard S. Wright
Executive producers: David Scott Rubin, Eric Reid, Harley Tannebaum, Lori McCreary, Fisher Stevens, John Penotti
Director of photography: Kramer Morgenthau
Production designer: Missy Stewart
Music: Stephen Trask
Costume designer: Renee Ehrlich Kalfus
Editor: Andrew Mondshein
Cast:
Harry Stevenson: Morgan Freeman
Bradley: Greg Kinnear
Diana: Radha Mitchell
Esther: Jane Alexander
Chloe: Alexa Davalos
Oscar: Toby Hemingway
Kathryn: Selma Blair
Jenny: Stana Katic
David: Billy Burke
Bat: Fred Ward
Running time -- 102 minutes
MPAA rating: R
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