"...most of my U.S. colleagues here hated James Gray's new film even more than they did last year's booed-right-here We Own The Night, which I wasn't too crazy about myself. But I gotta give it up—as earnest and awkward as this loose rethink of Dostoevsky's "White Nights" can get, it frequently moved me. Perhaps it's something to do with my own past as a fall-hard guy for troubled, difficult women. Then again, a lot of my male colleagues not giving this movie any love have similar skeletons in their closet. Or maybe it's just that one man's inclination to take a movie at its word is another man's credulousness. I was ready and willing to buy Joaquin Phoenix as Leonard, the troubled scion of Brighton Beach Russian Jews about to merge their dry cleaning business with a family of Cohens. Ready and willing to buy Vinessa Shaw as Sandra, the daughter of said Cohens. Ready and willing to buy Gwyneth Paltrow as Michelle, a shicksa goddess so thoroughly shicksa that she doesn't know what a dreidel looks like. Ready and willing to buy the idea that a prominent married lawyer, in today's Gawkerized metropolis, could take his mistress out to the opera on a regular basis and never get ratted on. So yes, implausibilities abound, but maybe they're deliberate—they certainly are in the film's evocation of Manhattan as a sort of fairyland. Nevertheless, Phoenix works very hard to imbue Leonard with goofy, half-in, half-out-of-it charm and confusion and loneliness; Paltrow's Michelle, the kept woman who thoughtlessly injects herself into Leonard's life, is similarly complex, and Shaw's Sandra is warm, quietly sympathetic. And throughout, the picture hits little poetic notes that resonate with truly on the conditions of longing and loss; a shot of Paltrow approaching Phoenix from a shadowed alley way; the look that Leonard's mother (Isabella Rossellini) gives her son as she bids him a farewell he didn't know she was expecting; the sight of a leather glove almost getting drawn out to sea by the Coney Island tide. Turning away from the crime-steeped mileus of his previous features, Gray aims for a kind of deliberately ache-filled romanticism that no other filmmaker I can think of is particularly interested in today. Good for him, says I."