Morgan Freeman doesn't act in his new movie, Feast Of Love, so much as he twinkles. When gorgeous young spiritual searcher Alexa Davalos asks Freeman and his equally beatific wife Jane Alexander to adopt her, even though she's clearly an adult, she's living out the unspoken fantasies of moviegoers who'd love to trade in their imperfect parents for the golden warmth of Freeman's ever-reassuring persona. Freeman does double duty as a voice-of-God narrator, and his saintly presence and stentorian tones do little to cover up the fact that there isn't much going on behind the film's tasteful images and gauzy New Age romance.
Veteran screenwriter and director Robert Benton centers his romantic, nudity-filled drama on a college-town coffee shop where the lead characters converge over steaming cups of java. Sad-sack owner Greg Kinnear stands by helplessly as wife Selma Blair leaves him for another woman. Then he launches into a romance with a brittle real-estate agent (Radha Mitchell) who's trying to break out of an empty, self-destructive affair with a married man (Billy Burke). Davalos falls rapturously in love with an angelic ex-junkie/coffee-shop grunt (Toby Hemingway) who's living on borrowed time, at least according to a cut-rate psychic. Meanwhile, Freeman and Alexander mourn the death of their beloved son by serving as parental figures to this motley gang at the coffee shop.
In a film full of paper saints innocently pining for pure love and Hallmark sentiments, Mitchell undercuts the free-floating sentimentality with a refreshingly unsympathetic performance as a tough, bitter survivor trying to figure out whether marrying a fundamentally decent man like Kinnear will save her from her demons, or simply destroy him. Mitchell's character eventually just fades from the film, but compared to Davalos and Hemingway's Harlequin-gone-goth romance and Freeman and Alexander's quaint melancholy, her conflicts feel bracingly real. Maybe Benton's serenely dull time-waster should take a cue from one of its main settings, and become the first Hollywood film released directly to coffee shops. Otherwise, it seems destined to find an indulgent second home as an unusually classy slot-plugger over at Lifetime.