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Joaquin Phoenix and Gwyneth Paltrow Sizzle in "Two Lovers"

Oscar honorees Joaquin Phoenix and Gwyneth Paltrow team up for the first time in Magnolia Pictures’ “Two Lovers,” a critically acclaimed romantic drama from director James Gray (“We Own the Night”). The film will be shown exclusively at Ayala Malls Cinemas (Glorietta 4 & Greenbelt 3) starting December 2.

“Two Lovers” tells the story of Leonard ( Phoenix ), an attractive but troubled young man who moves back into his childhood home following a suicide attempt. While recovering under the watchful eye of his worried but ultimately uncomprehending parents, he encounters two women in quick succession: Michelle (Paltrow), a beautiful but volatile neighbor trapped in a toxic affair and Sandra (Vinessa Shaw), the lovely daughter of his father's new business partner. Leonard is forced to make an impossible decision – between the impetuousness of desire and the comfort of love – or risk falling back into the darkness that nearly killed him.

Gray wrote the leading role of Leonard for Phoenix , who had starred in Gray’s previous films “The Yards” and “We Own the Night.” “Joaquin feels like a brother to me and that’s a very rare thing,” Gray says of their friendship. “I’m very close with him. We talk about what it is we want to explore in people. Joaquin has an unbelievable eye for human behavior and a really great understanding of what people are about and what motivates them. Frankly he likes the same things that I like, so of course I would always want to work with him.”

Gray admits that he wrote the role of Michelle, Leonard’s beautiful and volatile neighbor, for the Oscar-winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow. “Gwyneth’s definitely one of the most interesting and intelligent actors of her generation and the person I had in mind for this role,” he says. “She’s very famous for her British roles and for big Elizabethan productions, so this film seemed very atypical for her. But I knew that she could pull this off.”

Paltrow was immediately taken with the script. “I thought it was so beautiful and at the same time profound. It’s sad, but for me it’s also hopeful.”

Of her character, Paltrow says: “She’s caught in an obsessive loop, in a relationship with a married guy, but she can’t seem to let go of the obsession. But what she’s really hooked on is the fact she can’t have this person, which is something we all do in our lives, in different ways. When Leonard meets Michelle he develops a similar obsession with her and for me the film is about being able to see the bigger picture and break out of that obsessive compulsion.”

Gray admits that when Paltrow and Phoenix first came together for their scenes he was concerned because their techniques are so different. “Joaquin likes many takes and a lot of improvisation. He like’s it to be very loose and free flowing. Gwyneth likes doing three takes at the most and is extremely precise in that way. Neither technique is better than the other. I love them both, but they’re very, very different. And that’s a strange mix.”

On working with Phoenix , Paltrow says: “It has been one of the top two experiences of my life in terms of working with an actor and in terms of being awed by an actor. He’s so brilliant, and he’s so creative, and inventive. I just feel very impressed by him.”

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