Feast of Love

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Everyone in “Feast of Love” is messed up in some way, but none of those ways make them interesting. This is a movie that thinks having an “ensemble” cast means that there’s no need to have a straightforward story with a beginning, middle, and end. The film is all middle, and the characters just sort of wander around in it.

It was filmed in Portland, where I live, and much of the action centers around a coffeehouse at the corner of N. Shaver and N. Mississippi, a mile from my apartment. I used to go to this coffeehouse. It’s called Jitters in the movie, but it’s called A Fresh Pot in real life. One of the reasons I stopped going was that the people who worked there always played their background music too loud, to where it stopped being background music and started being like a nightclub. Plus, I found a better place, Albina Press, even closer to my apartment, with a much more work-conducive atmosphere.

Is any of this interesting to you? Well, the movie wasn’t interesting to me, so there. Based on Charles Baxter’s novel and adapted by Allison Burnett (“Resurrecting the Champ,” “Autumn in New York”), “Feast of Love” is narrated with characteristic wise bemusement by Morgan Freeman, who also plays a college professor named Harry Stevenson. Harry is on a leave of absence right now in the wake of a personal loss, and he spends his days at Jitters (where the music is at a reasonable volume), owned by Bradley Thomas (Greg Kinnear). Bradley’s wife has just left him for another woman, an inevitability that Bradley did not see coming despite having been sitting right there when the two women met and began flirting with each other.

Bradley’s problem is not just that he’s oblivious, but that he falls in love easily, believes strongly in the power of love, and lets that love turn him into a control freak. He gets so comfortable in the knowledge that he and his partner love each other that he forgets to do anything else to make the relationship work.

He soon meets a new woman, Diana (Radha Mitchell), a real estate agent who is currently sleeping with a married man, David (Billy Burke). Diana doesn’t really know what this “love” you speak of refers to. Despite the obvious mismatch, she and Bradley wind up together.

Meanwhile, Bradley’s coffeehouse employee Oscar (Toby Hemingway) eagerly recruits a new employee, Chloe (Alexa Davalos), because he thinks she’s pretty. This happens to be true, but Jitters needed a new barista anyway, since Oscar was apparently the only one. Oscar is a recovering drug addict from a broken home, and he and Chloe make wide-eyed plans for the future together the way underemployed, under-motivated 20-year-olds often do. In the shadows, Oscar’s abusive alcoholic father (Fred Ward) lurks menacingly.

What is noteworthy about the film is its frank depiction of casual nudity among lovers. People in movies usually cover up, or at the very least the camera covers up for them. Not here. Director Robert Benton (“Kramer vs. Kramer,” “Places in the Heart”) has them continue to talk, argue, and chit-chat in the buff, the way real couples do. This translates to an abundance of naked breasts in the film, which has already led to an abundance of pervy discussions on IMDB’s message boards.

And that’s truly the only noteworthy element in the movie. It’s an anemic production, full of characters who go through a lot but don’t seem to actually learn anything, or change from how they were in the beginning. I feel bad for Morgan Freeman, a genuinely gifted actor who must be getting tired of playing the Wise Old Aphorism-Spouting Black Guy, and for Greg Kinnear, whose talent for playing oblivious-but-sincere characters is wasted on a film as listless and forgettable as this one.

C (1 hr., 42 min.; R, some harsh profanity, a lot of nudity and some strong sexuality.)

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