Love and Other Impossible Pursuits: Shades of Grey

By Beckii CMovies - 20 April 2011 4:00 PM

Love and Other Impossible Pursuits: Shades of Grey

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

The Stars: Natalie Portman, Scott Cohen, Charlie Tahan, Lisa Kudrow.

The Story: Emilia (Portman) is a Harvard-educated attorney who takes her office affair one step further by marrying fellow colleague and senior partner, Jack (Cohen). She then finds herself overwhelmed by the family she’s just stepped into the middle of: Jack’s bitter ex-wife, Carolyn (Kudrow) and their precocious young son, William (Tahan). As she and her recently-divorced husband try to grapple with the loss of their newborn baby girl, Emilia discovers being vilified as a home-wrecker is the least of her worries. 

The Buzz: Alternatively titled The Other Woman, the film is based on the novel Love and Other Impossible Pursuits by Ayelet Waldman, and is directed by Don Roos (The Opposite of Sex, Marley and Me). Though completed in 2009, the movie was shelved for a 2011 release—possibly due to Portman’s nomination and eventual win at the recent Oscars. says: It’s challenging to build a film around a rather contentious plot premise, especially one exploring themes of infidelity; either you encourage vigorous, intellectual debate or risk pissing off a large majority of your mainstream audience. Roos does a drivable job of allowing us to somewhat sympathize with Emilia—particularly following her inability to accept the grief of losing her new-born, sadly her complete lack of self-awareness initially makes her appear selfish. The back and forth sequences of Jack and Emilia’s relationship, while very delightfully 500 Days of Summer-ish, only serve to underscore the immaturity of their early courtship days—from the business trip rendezvous to Emilia making googly-eyes in bed. Eventually, when Jack marries her (largely) due to having unsuspectingly knocked her up, you’re not so convinced of the credibility of their union, which subsequently makes it tiresome to watch them experience these trials and tribulations when all you want to tell them is “Serves you right”. Even Carolyn, whom could have been moulded as a character that one could significantly empathize with, comes across as overtly high-strung and annoying.

Fortunately, the cast bounce back nicely from poor character development, and fare decently for most of the film. Without her ostentatious tutus and grating little-girl-lost expressions, Portman falls more gracefully into her role, infusing Emilia’s flaws with a touch of authentic helplessness that makes her performance naturally beguiling. Cohen’s displays of raw emotion are equally compelling, and Kudrow defies her usual comedic style accompanied by a very commendable dramatic turn as Carolyn—that fence-mending scene at the end with Portman came out surprisingly powerful. But it’s Tahan, who last charmed audiences in the otherwise dismal Charlie St. Cloud, who really brings it. His disarmingly accomplished take on 11-year-old William sandwiched between tangled familial ties is wonderfully mature yet tinged with the right amount of child-like innocence to qualify as adorable.

When all’s said and done, Love and Other Impossible Pursuitsis a pleasant, professionally polished indie gem tarnished by shallow emotional insights. Those looking for a film showcasing Portman involved in a salacious tryst will probably reap more enjoyment watching 2004’s Closer


About Beckii

Beckii C is a former film production tyrant who also happens to be an insatiable movie addict. When not engaged in spirited debate, she can be found scouring the town for perfect vintage fashion and whispering at small animals. Her guilty pleasures include listening to bands who can't play their own instruments and devouring cream puffs.