In the romantic tapestry “Feast of Love,” the women are selfish or superstitious and the men are susceptible or clueless. Unless, of course, they’re Morgan Freeman, in which case they’re omniscient and serene. Characters cavort and couple in the bedroom, in the moonlight, and in the falsity zones of a lousy screenplay. The result is tedious goo.
Directed by Robert Benton and adapted by screenwriter and top culprit Allison Burnett from Charles Baxter’s novel, the relocated-to-Oregon dramedy presents the heart and its various conditions via three intersecting stories.
Bradley (Greg Kinnear), a coffeehouse owner, is a blinkered romantic. His wife, Kathryn (Selma Blair), leaves him for a female shortstop. His follow-up romance, real-estate agent Diana (Radha Mitchell), is involved with a married man.
Young java clerks Oscar (Toby Hemingway) and Chloe (Alexa Davalos) fall passionately, devotedly in love. They sustain the fervor despite the threats of Oscar’s violent father (Fred Ward) and a psychic’s prediction that Chloe takes to heart.
Harry (Freeman), an older professor and easygoing sage who is recovering from a personal loss, dispenses romantic advice. He enjoys telling his supportive wife, Esther (Jane Alexander), about the Eros-generated foolery he’s observed among locals.
It’s easy to watch at the beginning. Benton, a veteran Hollywood player whose credits include the Oscar-winning “Kramer Vs. Kramer” and the truly worthy “The Late Show,” navigates the story lines smoothly. The above-mentioned Harry-Esther dialogue and a bit involving Bradley and a dog are mildly amusing. The cast is solid.
But as the relationships (except for the lesbian pair, who vanish after wreaking their havoc) unfold over the long haul, it becomes evident that saccharin is prevailing over sugar. What might have, with a bit more truth, squeaked by on genuine sweetness is but a dim medley of contrivances and hooey.
None of these people are credible enough to seriously interest us. At one particularly false point, Bradley stabs his finger with a kitchen knife so that his body will hurt like his heart does. At the hospital, he falls in love again — with the nurse attending to his wound.
As for the psychic’s dark forecast, you can bet that it plays out pivotally. And not even Freeman, who (surprise) narrates the movie voice-of-wisdom style, can save some of the lines: “Sometimes you don’t know you’ve crossed a line until you’re already on the other side.”
When it comes to “Feast of Love,” eat at home.
Feast of Love *½
Starring Morgan Freeman, Greg Kinnear, Radha Mitchell, Alexa Davalos
Written by Allison Burnett, based on a book by Charles Baxter
Directed by Robert Benton
Running time: 1 hour, 42 minutes