There are few LGBT filmmakers who have gotten "gay" cinema right. Usually the plot is overly dramatic and tends to treat the protagonist as a social cause rather than a person. But perhaps now that the twenty-first century is getting better acquainted with the notion that gay people aren't two-dimensional caricatures, Ira Sachs (best known for directing Married Life and Keep the Lights On, the latter of which was also centered around a gay couple) was able to better represent them (via two straight men, of course) in his latest feature, Love Is Strange.
After thirty-nine years of being together, New York City-based couple Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina), finally decide to get married in 2013 (though, why they waited so long--since same-sex marriage was legalized in 2011) is unclear. But, in the wake of their marriage, Ben and George find that a happily ever after doesn't seem to be in the cards for them. Due to George's position as a music teacher at a Catholic school, his recent marriage forces the school to terminate him (even though they were already well-aware of Ben's presence in George's life). The sudden financial blow is too much to bear as Ben is already in retirement and subsists solely on a pension.
In spite of selling their apartment, which they only recently purchased to own, Ben and George must also ask for assistance from their family and friends in order to secure a place to say during the interim period of George looking for a job. Though Ben's sister, Mindy (Christina Kirk), has enough space for both of them in Poughkeepsie, the thought of moving there is abhorrent to both. Thus, they both agree to stay in the city--albeit separate from one another, with Ben staying at his nephew Elliot's (Darren E. Burrows) and George staying at their friend's, a police officer named Ted (Cheyenne Jackson, of 30 Rock fame).
After a few days at their respective new residences, Ben comes to the conclusion for both of them that, "Sometimes, when you live with people, you know them better than you care to." It isn't just Ben and George who are vexed, either. Kate, Elliot's writer wife, has her entire writing schedule upset by Ben's constant chattering while she's at her computer. Their son, Joey (Charlie Tahan), too, takes extreme issue with Ben invading his privacy by staying on the bottom bunk of his bed.
Joey, meanwhile, has his own homosexual intimation surrounding him, as he gets closer and closer to a friend of his from school, Vlad (Eric Tabach), who ultimately involves him in the theft of several French literature books. While this element of the story--and why exactly Joey is so "into" Vlad--is never really resolved, which is one of the more irksome aspects of the narrative. This, in addition to the facile way that Ben and George are suddenly able to solve their apartment woes, are what detract from Love Is Strange overall. However, what makes the film viable is its testament to the notion that all love worth having requires struggle, often the kind that comes in unexpected forms.