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‘The Face of Love’: Annette Bening falls for Ed Harris (twice)

Nikki (Annette Bening) meets dead ringer (Ed Harris) for her late husb
“The Face Love.”  |   IFC FILMS

Nikki (Annette Bening) meets a dead ringer (Ed Harris) for her late husband in “The Face of Love.” | IFC FILMS

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Nikki Annette Bening

Tom/Garrett Ed Harris

Roger Robin Williams

Summer Jess Weixler

IFC Films presents a film directed by Arie Posin and written by Posin and Matthew McDuffie. Running time: 92 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for brief drug references). Opens Friday at Landmark Century Centre and Landmark Renaissance in Highland Park.

Updated: April 15, 2014 6:03AM

‘The Face of Love,” a film about a woman dealing with the death of her beloved husband and the man who literally replaces him, easily could have been a madcap romantic comedy, but to his credit director and co-screenwriter Arie Posin sticks to a subtler, more serious storyline.

It’s been five years since Nikki (Annette Bening) lost her architect husband Garrett (Ed Harris) in a swimming accident in Mexico, and she is still grieving. She has a successful career, a to-die-for modern house, a loving daughter (Jess Weixler) and a pleasant life, but without Garrett she’s despondent and unhappy.

One day while wandering through one of their favorite haunts — the Los Angeles County Museum of Art — she comes across Garrett’s exact double. Shocked but fascinated, she does some sleuthing and discovers he is an art teacher named Tom (also played by Harris).

What starts with art lessons quickly moves to attraction and a growing relationship. Set this movie in the ’30s or ’40s and you’d have a starring vehicle for Bogie and Bacall. But set today and with Bening and Harris as the main attraction, it’s aimed straight at the baby boomer generation.

The stars hold the film together. Bening, who looks quite lovely (yes wrinkles can be beautiful), offers a complex portrayal of a woman desperate for a connection with Tom but at the same time aware that she is treading in weird territory. She never tells Tom that her husband died (only that he left her), avoids introducing him to her friends (including her neighbor played by Robin Williams) and takes him to places frequented during her marriage to Garrett (including the resort where he died).

Harris is his usual cool, stolid self, slowly etching out a character who also is hiding a few secrets. He’s appealing as a man, defined by endless patience and grace, who tries to connect with this mysterious woman who’s walked into his life.

As the story unwinds in the thinly plotted movie with too many loose threads, one can’t help but think there’s a big reveal around the corner. That never happens but Nikki does find the truth in this complex, emotional situation that will open her eyes and force her to move on with her life.

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