Having lost his woman and his dog in the first twenty minutes of Feast of Love, Bradley Thomas (Greg Kinnear) is like a country song come to life. However, thankfully, minus the dog and the woman, Robert Benton’s lusciously sensual adaptation of Charles Baxter’s bestselling 2000 novel penned by Allison Burnett stops the country comparisons right there. Of course, the fact that Bradley’s woman abandoned her husband on her birthday for another woman puts to rest any concern that Bradley’s about to drive to a honky-tonk in his GM pickup truck.
Set in a small and sometimes seemingly claustrophobic Oregon community, this episodic tale chronicles the lusts, loves, and losses of a wide array of characters all linked to Bradley and/or his hip, arty coffee shop Jitters that seems to have more in common with Wharton and James than following the love lives of caffeinated young people of the Friends variety.
The heart of the film lies in the character of Harry Stevenson, embodied by the incomparable Morgan Freeman as a heartbroken professor still on leave, spending his days going from the home he shares with his loyal and loving wife to Bradley’s shop while trying to come to grips with his son’s shocking, unexpected death. In the beginning of the film, narrating as a mythic God like figure as he wanders around the community one sleepless night taking in his surroundings, Harry shares that Greek Gods invented humans because they were bored, and then love so the humans would have something to do. It turned out that love wasn’t boring so the Greeks tried it themselves only to discover they had to invent laughter just to bear it. Despite the informative and clever prologue, there’s little laughter in the love lives of Feast’s characters but plenty of gratuitous nudity that seems instead to be director Robert Benton’s connotation of the title’s Feast.
While a majority of the characters seem to be far too self-involved and self-destructive for us to give much thought to and too much screen time is given especially to the vastly unlikable real estate agent adulterer Diana (Radha Mitchell), the latest woman to toy with Bradley’s heart, it’s the charms of leads Kinnear and Freeman that really keep us invested along with a great, supporting turn by Alexa Davalos as Chloe, a beautiful new employee of Jitters who finds her soul mate in coworker Oscar (Toby Hemingway). Similar thematically to one of my favorite romantic vignette films, Playing By Heart, while the overall success of Feast decreased in the translation to film, it’s still an above average contemporary big screen soap opera that’s old fashioned in its spirit but modern (sometimes too much so) in its execution.