Love At Large

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Alan Rudolph opens his film Love At Large (1990) with the Leonard Cohen song “Ain’t No Cure For Love” which sets the mood. Love At Large is a film set outside of time. At once it feels a piece of the Bogie & Bacall pictures of the forties while also feeling decidedly a part of the late eighties. Rudolph’s film is interested in genre first and foremost. Everything else is secondary.

The mysteries that the gumshoes have to solve are the wrong mysteries. Mistaken identities, assumptions, and gut feelings all lead down the wrong path. Infidelity, imagined or real, waits at the core of each of these mysteries. In the end, Rudolph isn’t even committed to solving anything other than the connection forged by the two leads.

Rudolph subverts formal genre with oddball asides that indulge character rather than plot. Characters perform their genre specific roles but it is always a performance masking a truth that is something else, something that opposes the detective movie genre. The plot and characters commit to genre but the performances negate those restrictions in a script that indulges genre fantasy one moment and a studied naturalism the next, amounting to something wholly dream-like and post-modern.

What Love At Large accomplishes is a study in emotional futility and deception. It isn’t a gumshoe story of old as much a meditation on love in its various romantic modes. The villain of the piece isn’t a bigamist or Neil Young, it’s jealousy, paranoia and deception. There are no clear cut bad guys. Like so many of Rudolph’s best films Love At Large is about the messiness of human relationships and how that mess finds itself articulated in specific genre terms.

The true strength of an Alan Rudolph film is its ensemble cast. In Love At Large that includes Tom Berenger, Elizabeth Perkins, Anne Archer, Kate Capshaw, Annette O’Toole, Ruby Dee, and Ted Levine. It’s an ensemble that embraces genre archetypes and the chaos of human emotion equally. Rudolph, like Robert Altman, desires for characters to be as human as they are genre specific; flawed vessels of formal posturing.

Love At Large can be summed up by Elizabeth Perkins’ line “will we be glad and dizzy all the time or will we destroy each other?” This is the fundamental mystery that Rudolph and company attempts to solve. In the end the solution eludes them. Instead it is Leonard Cohen’s theme song “Aint’ No Cure For Love” that offers the closest thing to an answer that the film can muster. That’s why Love At Large is such a brilliant movie.