Nick Cassavetes' 'She's So Lovely': An insane love story

The 1997 film, which screened as part of a showcase honoring Cassavetes at the Syracuse International Film Festival, is a particularly zany take on love triangles.

She’s So Lovely is about a love story, but that kind of love rarely exists in the real world. Maybe director Nick Cassavetes wants to let us forget about the real world and just watch his film to experience the crazy love that most people won’t experience in their whole lives.

Eddie (Sean Penn) and Maureen (Robin Wright) are an "insane" couple that want to love and be with each other at all costs.

Eddie is put into a psychiatric hospital after he attempts to shoot his neighbor, who beats and attempts to rape Maureen. Maureen then divorces Eddie, remarries another man, Joey (John Travolta), and has three children. But eventually, she forsakes Joey and her children to get together with Eddie again when he is released from hospital 10 years later.

Nick Cassavetes seems to be passionate about telling this type of movie where a pair of lovers are madly in love with each other, regardless of their responsibility for others. His later film The Notebook is another example. 

Maybe it seems ridiculous, but it is somehow touching. In today’s world, is there anyone who is willing to throw it all away just for true love? From this film, we can sense Cassavetes’s persistent pursuit of pure love.

And he is good at showing the audience the strong chemistry between the couple when they are dancing, kissing and spending time in a rainy night, which is a perfect setting for romance. Of course, Penn and Wright were a real couple at that time. Maybe they brought their real feeling to each other into the film, which makes Eddie and Maureen’s love more compelling. Cassavetes chose the right actors at the right time.

Unfortunately, although Penn and Wright perform with deep and intense emotions, their singular relationship and the monotonous plot don’t hook the audience. The film doesn’t become engaging until the latter part, where Joey appears with Maureen’s three chirpy and adorable daughters.

Joey wants to detain Maureen. Maureen can’t forget Eddie. Eddie fights with Joey. The complicated love triangle makes the film catchier.

Travolta plays a Joey who is desperate to show his seriousness of his love for Maureen and his fury that Maureen still loves Eddie. But his emotional and over-the-top performance adds a lot of facetious effects to the film. We know he does this on purpose; he wants the audience to laugh, and the Landmark Theatre audience did. So he does an excellent job and successfully steals the show.

Some ridiculous but hilarious scenes also make the film more interesting, like Eddie kissing a male barber. The three little girls are another source of humor — the scene where their 10-year-old daughter drinks beer to calm herself down incredibly vivifies the solemn and strained quarrel scene between Eddie and Joey.

The film ends abruptly. Maureen gets into Eddie’s car, without even looking back at her husband and children, and then goes away.

Indeed, it is an unthinkable, ludicrous plot coupled with ridiculous characters. So what? It’s meant to be an insane love story, which, after all, makes the audience laugh, get angry and think.

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