Feast of Love Robert Benton

Feast of Love Robert Benton
In 1972, Robert Benton directed a terrific western called Bad Company. An elegiac story of a wealthy Civil War draft dodger falling in with a group of outlaws, it was grungy and corrosive, and left me with a good mean feeling all over. But in rather short order Benton sold out, started trolling for Oscars and ultimately wound up making stuff like Feast of Love, forming a downward curve from wicked to wussy that’s hard for me to fathom.

Morgan Freeman stars (in full "magic Negro” mode) as a professor and father figure to a bunch of confused white people. All of them have "love problems,” of course, and it’s Freeman’s job to speak the unmouthable truths they need to hear. But as Greg Kinnear loses two wives to other lovers, as Radha Mitchell dithers over him and her obnoxious married lover, and as damaged teenagers Alexa Davalos and Toby Hemingway try to put their lives together, one thing is obvious about their issues: nobody’s thinking about them very hard.

For all the alleged romantic variety shoehorned into this movie, the filmmakers can’t come up with anything more profound than "love is funny,” and for all of the pain they think they’re depicting they soft-pedal everything like crazy. It’s not often that you see whole movies where nobody says anything a human being would say but that’s the surreal magic of Feast of Love; it has such arrogant faith in its bad decisions (which include gratuitous cheesecake that’s totally out of character with its dreamy pretensions) that you sort of admire it for its resistance to good sense. But only a little.

Mostly I think back to the good old days of ’72, glance ahead to this ludicrous movie and marvel at how far the mighty truly can fall. (MGM)