Two Lovers

Joaquin Phoenix, Gwyneth Paltrow, Vinessa Shaw, Isabella Rossellini | R |

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Lost in the brouhaha over Joaquin Phoenix's recent wacko public appearances and his claim that he's forsaking movie stardom to become a rap singer (all strongly suspected to be a hoax staged for a mockumentary he is filming) is the fact that he's a tremendously gifted actor. When it comes to playing wounded souls, as he does in this softhearted intimate drama, he hurts so good.

Phoenix movingly portrays Leonard, an emotionally fragile but likable young man with bipolar disorder who lives with his parents in Brooklyn. Leonard is conflicted over his attraction to two women: a neurotic glamour girl (Paltrow, all jangly-nerved need) already involved with a married man, and a more grounded, supportive type (Shaw), of whom his parents approve. Directed and cowritten with quiet assurance by James Gray (with whom Phoenix made The Yards and We Own the Night), Two Lovers follows Leonard's halting attempts at figuring out his heart and his future. Like all of us, he eventually comes to understand that sometimes you have to get on with life, even when life doesn't match up with your dreams.


>• The new mom stars in Confessions of a Shopaholic, but she's no spendthrift.

DO YOU ENJOY SHOPPING? I find it a bit of a drag, actually. [Since having Olive, 1, with Sacha Baron Cohen], the time that went into grooming, plucking, waxing, curling and shopping is gone.

SO WHAT KIND OF SHOPPER ARE YOU? In and out. With a goal. The times in my life I've gotten carried away I've regretted; I get home and realize it's ridiculously trendy and isn't me at all. If it's not able to be chucked in the washing machine or have baby food on it, I regret buying it.

>• She won raves as a careworn mother in Doubt, but the Best Supporting Actress nominee, 43, is ready to show off her stylish side on the red carpet.

YOU OFTEN LOOK SO MUCH OLDER ONSCREEN! I'm used to people walking up to me and saying, "You look so much better! I never thought you were even attractive." At first it would take me aback, but now I take it all in stride. Ultimately it's a compliment that I transform in my roles.

HOW WAS GOING TOE TO TOE WITH MERYL STREEP? I was terrified. My heart was palpitating. I didn't want to look like the weak link. Meryl couldn't have been any more fantastic. I think she's aware of how nervous people get around her.

HOW WILL YOU PICK YOUR OSCAR DRESS? Everyone thinks I'm about 70 years old and 300 lbs., so I'd like to wear something that makes me feel a little cute!

>FIRED UP Nicholas D'Agosto (top, with Sarah Roemer) and Eric Christian Olsen play high school football stars who try cheerleading to nab babes. Surprisingly, this smart-aleck comedy grows on you. (PG-13)

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FRIDAY THE 13TH Twenty-nine years after lethally swinging his first machete, masked murderer Jason is back and still killing hotties dumb enough to wander near. No better than it needs to be. (R)


GOMORRAH This standout drama deftly weaves together multiple stories to illustrate the pervasive reach and tragic cost of organized crime in Italy today. In Italian with English subtitles. (Not rated)

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