Food Of Love

Spanish director Ventura Pons makes his English-language debut with Food Of Love, a reserved coming-of-age story that overcomes flat acting and one-dimensional scene-building thanks to its lively plot, adapted from David Leavitt's novella The Page Turner. Kevin Bishop plays a Julliard-bound piano student who catches a couple of breaks when he volunteers to be a page-turner for world-renowned concert pianist Paul Rhys. Both Rhys and his manager Allan Corduner make passes at the 18-year-old, but Bishop can't act on their interest while saddled with his neurotic divorcée mother Juliet Stevenson. When mother and son vacation in Barcelona, they run into Rhys again, and Bishop steals away for trysts with his hero. It's Bishop's first gay experience, and his awakening is bound up with his love of music and his ambition to be a touring professional. His confusion deepens when the term begins at Julliard, and he undertakes a more serious affair with a man who lives in the same New York apartment building as Corduner, a mover and shaker who can offer entrance to the classical-music inner circle in exchange for a few intimate evenings by the fire. As the complications mount, Bishop's mother becomes aware of her son's orientation, and frets over what to do with the knowledge. Stevenson's performance adds spice to an otherwise staid production: She's scatterbrained and jabbering, flapping her way through scenes and leaving a veritable cloud of amusement. The leading man is less enjoyable. Bishop delivers his lines as tersely and self-consciously as a Whit Stillman hero, only Pons' dialogue isn't up to Stillman's standard. Food Of Love's characters usually say just what needs to be said to advance the story, and then repeat it a couple of times. (For fun, count how many times the words "page turner" are spoken in the first 10 minutes.) Still, the arcs and curlicues of Leavitt's book survive, and its ramifications hold. Food Of Love catches a world of privilege, where appreciation and performance of classical music is as much a part of the day as breakfast, and where the most basic wants are easily met. The nagging question for Bishop is whether his budding desire for affection has anything to do with his thirst for recognition. Early on, Rhys asks him what he's looking for in their relationship, and as Food Of Love moves toward a pressure-packed conclusion, the answer remains beguilingly foggy.

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