In "The Face of Love," it's five years after the devastating loss of her husband when Annette Bening's still-grieving Nikki sees an uncanny look-alike of her dear departed wandering their old haunt, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
As Nikki starts courting Tom (Ed Harris), a local artist with no idea the psychodrama he's walking into, moviegoers can be forgiven for seeing double themselves in the trappings of this skewed, late-in-life romance.
But rather than indulging the weird Sirkian "Vertigo" (minus the murder plot) nipping at the edges, director and co-writer Arie Posin regrettably sticks to the tastefully designed, artless tear-jerker. The lost opportunity is that he's got the masterful Bening and Harris to play with, great enough actors to turn any interaction — however tritely written — into an intimate, emotionally honest dance of the scarred and delicate.
What takes its toll, however, are the forced contrivances. When will Nikki's torch-carrying neighbor (Robin Williams) or her daughter (Jess Weixler) find out? And then there are the obvious thematic signposts: Nikki's work as an interior designer who stages houses for real estate agents, the big Ed Ruscha question mark painting on her wall.
Then again, it may be enough for those deprived of sensitive adult fare that "The Face of Love" offers up both Bening's exquisite portrayal of doomed comfort and Harris' patented soulful masculinity. These two are indeed faces to love.
"The Face of Love." Rated PG-13 for brief drug references. Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes. At the Landmark, Los Angeles.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times