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Movie Review

The classic symbol for love is the two-lobed heart, found on playing cards, tree trunks and valentine candy everywhere. Feast of Love adds something to that time-honored symbol: an asterisk, the ultimate shorthand for "yes, but."

Bradley, a coffee shop owner in Portland, Ore., is in love with his wife. But Kathryn, his bride of six years, falls for a fellow softball player. A woman softball player. She leaves him right after he unveils her birthday present in what's got to go down as one of the most depressing birthday celebrations ever.

Bradley falls in love again. But his new squeeze can't bear to break up with the married man she's been seeing on the sly for years. They get married. But she leaves him, in movie time, 10 minutes later.

Oscar and Chloe—two college-age kids who work at Bradley's coffee shop—are in love. But Oscar's dad is a knife-wielding jerk and they have no money, so they make a porn tape to get a little cash. (Oh, and a psychic has told Chloe that Oscar is about two steps away from making his last espresso and transferring to that grand coffee shop in the sky.)

Harry, a gray-haired college professor on leave, and his wife, Esther, are in love, and they've been in love ever so long. But a family tragedy has created friction between them, and a growing awareness of their own mortality makes them wonder how much time they have to spend with one another.

Yes, the asterisks run rampant in Feast of Love. Baseball No. 756 is certainly not alone in this world.


Positive Elements

The film insists that love can be both tough and tricky. That's true, for what it's worth. Harry and Esther form the real heart of this film, if you will, and their relationship mostly showcases what love should be about: Caring commitment through good times and bad, just like the preachers make you promise during the wedding ceremony. People around them gravitate toward their kindness and stability, and poor Harry can't seem to drink a cup of coffee without someone dumping his or her relational problems on him.

Chloe gravitates to the couple so much, in fact, that she tearfully asks Harry to "adopt" she and Oscar. "You know, unofficially," she says. Both came from messed up families, apparently, and she appreciates the guidance Harry and Esther give them.

[Spoiler Warning] But Harry senses that kindness and caring isn't always enough. Sometimes its important to set down some hard-and-fast rules, even though that's not his natural inclination. He frets that his gentle, Socratic style of teaching wasn't enough to save his son from dying of a heroin overdose.

"This is right, this is wrong!" he wishes he would've said. "For God's sake, this was my son!"

Scattered musings on love are uplifting. None of these people seem to have much grounding in eternal Truth and Love, but they try to muddle through their lives as best they can (given that massive handicap), and many do so with strength and a sense of humor.

Oscar broke a heroin addiction some months before meeting Chloe, taking a Narcotics Anonymous six-month chip out of his pocket to prove it.

Spiritual Content

Harry somberly opens the film by retelling a Grecian myth about the gods who created love because they were bored, and then created laughter "so they could stand it."

Portland, the film's setting, is a haven for the "spiritual-not-religious" crowd, and the film's few nods to religion reflect that. Oscar tells us that we "only live once. Probably." Esther believes the house next to them is "cursed," because any couple that ever moves in there breaks up in a matter of weeks. She and Harry have a Buddha-based lamp.

Chloe turns to a fortune-teller for advice about the future. The psychic reads palms and Tarot cards, and finds that both say Oscar does not have long for this world. She tries to console Chloe by saying, "If you really love him, people can keep other people alive."

Harry and Bradley meet on a park bench during a midnight walk and mull over some of the pain they've endured the last few months: "God is either dead or He despises us," Harry says. "God doesn't hate us," Bradley answers. "If He did, He wouldn't have made our hearts so brave."

Sexual Content

Two things to know about Feast of Love: One, nudity and graphic sex scenes form its main course. Two, none of these scenes involve people actually married to each other.

The film's first bout of infidelity involves Kathryn and her one-time softball opponent, Jenny. After a short flirtation, they find a bed, kiss, get naked and get intertwined. Among other things, Jenny is seen stroking Kathryn's exposed breast.

Kathryn splits with Bradley shortly thereafter. So, he hooks up with a blond bombshell named Diana during a rainstorm. We never actually see those two having sex; the camera's too busy showing us images of Diana and her other boyfriend, David. It's a fairly simple, carnal relationship the pair has: "We have sex and we drink wine," Diana says. "We drink wine and have sex." Diana's naked body is frequently put on display throughout—fully, and from all angles. David is also nude (and seen mostly from behind). One particularly graphic scene boasts a variety of different sexual positions, motions and sounds.

David is, of course, married to someone else. But when Diana announces that she's going to marry Bradley, things come to a head. David, for all his moral shortcomings, understands there's something wrong with Diana getting married without any intention of staying faithful to her new hubby. He (narcissistically and hypocritically) reminds Diana that he was faithful to his wife for 11 years.

"Do you love him?" he asks.

"I find him exceedingly lovable," she answers.

David and Diana later hook up for good, thereby wrecking two other marriages in the process. But in the film's ethos, that merely allows the two people who were meant for each other to get together.

Oscar and Chloe also engage in graphic sexual activity, including on a moonlit football field where a naked and fully exposed Chloe straddles a naked Oscar and gyrates around. A later scene includes a full-frontal nude shot of Chloe and a rear shot of Oscar. We see a brief image of the two naked in the porn video they make; it's running during one of Diana and David's own trysts.

Violent Content

It's intimated that Oscar's father, who's normally referred to as "The Bat," is a violent guy. He carries around a knife, threatens Chloe and, at one juncture, stabs a milk carton Chloe's holding. Later, he stakes out Chloe's house with the obvious intent of hurting her with that same knife. Harry stumbles across The Bat, punches him in the face, takes the knife away from him (by stepping on his hand) and threatens his life.

A dumped and therefore despondent Bradley cuts the end of his finger off. He tells the ER doctor, "I wanted to feel in my body as much pain as I feel in my heart." A naked David slaps a naked Diana across the face after Diana announces she's going to marry Bradley. "You deserve to get slapped," he says. "You're a c--t." Diana returns the favor.

Crude or Profane Language

Beyond the callous use of that extremely obscene female epithet, the f-word comes up in conversation nearly a dozen times, and the s-word is spoken about 10. God's name—often paired with "d--n"—is abused a dozen times.

Drug and Alcohol Content

There's significant talk of former drug addictions, drug overdoses and drug-related death. But we don't see anyone using onscreen. Everyone, however, drinks like a thirsty camel with a taste for chardonnay. Every major character is shown downing wine, champagne and/or beer.

Diana lights up cigarettes frequently, blowing smoke with an air of seduction. When she first meets Bradley, she explains the habit away by saying they're organic cigarettes.

"So those are the ones that cure cancer," Bradley says.

Other Negative Elements

Bradley breaks into a house to dognap, well, a dog. And he bribes a kid who sees him to keep quiet about it.


Bradley confesses to Harry that he feels he must've done something wrong to send Kathryn running into the arms of another woman. Harry says no—there was nothing he could've done about it.

"She just fell in love, that's all."

This philosophy, dear reader, is a big reason why America's divorce rate is skyrocketing and some fabulous Hollywood actors can't seem to stay hitched longer than a commercial break.

Feast of Love isn't as much about love as it is about an endless loop of infatuation, lust and boredom. Kramer vs. Kramer director Robert Benton doesn't care to reveal here that real love involves compatibility and commitment, friendship and faithfulness. Only Harry and Esther seems to embody those qualities, but even they seem to think they just lucked out. See, there's always a but.

These people are slaves to love. No, scratch that: They are slaves to giddy, gushy feelings they mistake for love. If and when those feelings vanish, in this awful, skin-obsessed onscreen world it's perfectly dandy to pick up and find a new "true love," never mind the wreckage one leaves behind.

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