If music be the food of love, play on. Give me excess
of it that, surfeiting, the appetite may sicken and so die.
— Wm. Shakespeare
I hate to poo-poo someone’s labor of love, but this is a
sticky, dreary mess. It all starts when 18-year-old Paul Porterfield
(Bishop), modestly talented piano student, gets the
opportunity to be page turner at a San Francisco concert performance
by his idol, pianist Richard Kennington (Rhys, a sort
of cut-rate Rupert Everett). Paul and his mother, Pamela
(Stevenson), meet up with Kennington again in Barcelona,
where they’ve gone to recover from the news that the senior
Mr. Porterfield has run off with his secretary. Here Paul
and Richard begin an affair, which they conceal from Pamela
by telling her they are sightseeing. The threesome meet for
drinks and dinner every night, and soon Pamela, needing to
be desired after her husband’s defection, is persuaded that
Richard would welcome her advances.
Stevenson (Truly, Madly, Deeply; Nicholas Nickleby; Bend
It Like Beckham) is the bright spot of the show as Paul’s
emotionally labile mother. You’ll wring your hands for her
as she makes her advances to Richard, with her forced gaiety
layered over obvious nervousness at being out of practice
at this game. This complicated situation overwhelms the craven
Richard and, instead of accompanying the Porterfields to Granada
as planned, he runs home to New York and his long-time lover/manager
Joseph (Corduner), who has not exactly been a monk
in Richard’s absence.
The movie tacks a bit with a subplot about Paul’s discovery,
at Juilliard, that he’s not the prodigy he thought he was.
But otherwise it’s a fairly straightforward soap opera, with
Paul as the young beauty who just can’t seem to say no—or
even imagine that perhaps sometimes one should say
no. This trait makes him a plaything for older men, ultimately
leading to a heartbreak any older, more experienced person—even
his mother, whom he seems to despise—could have seen coming
a mile off.
One can see tantalizing questions bobbing around like flotsam
in this sea of pretentious froth. Why is Richard such a prat
that he gets involved with a clearly worshipful fan who’s
so young that he cannot possibly be expected to control his
feelings? What if anything is being said about gay male relationships
by depicting only May-December pairings? Are we to infer from
Pons’ use of Orsino’s famous Twelfth Night quote
that Paul has lost his appetite? Food Of Love leaves
you wanting to read David Leavitt’s novel, in the hopes
that you’ll find more there there. But then again, Leavitt
has pronounced himself very satisfied with the filmic version
of his work, so maybe this is truly all the there there
This movie was bad enough that I couldn’t force myself to
watch it in one sitting. Luckily, I had the benefit of a video.
On the other hand, you, the paying viewer, will be stuck in
the theater for 112 tedious minutes.