Debra Winger and Tracy Letts in “The Lovers.”
Affection and attraction play by their own confounding rules in The Lovers, Azazel Jacobs’ mordant comedy about a married couple who can’t remain faithful even to their infidelities. Smart, unpredictable performances by and an uncommonly crucial score by Mandy Hoffman ensure that the picture’s odd nature won’t be misconstrued as indecisiveness.
Letts and Winger are Michael and Mary, who appear to have been married for many, many more years than either would have liked. Each has a longtime lover (Melora Walters’ Lucy and Aidan Gillen’s Robert, respectively), to whom s/he has made, broken and remade promises to give the marriage up. After the visit, I’ll end. We can start our lives together at last.
But a funny thing happens on the way to divorce court. Mike and fall for each other again.
In early scenes, Jacobs captures the stultifying state of this. Flimsy excuses elicit flimsy follow-up questions, with long pauses filling the air between them. Even the act of offering a glass of wine to Michael feels like an act of hospitality in a foreign land, where a traveler doesn’t know whether custom requires him to accept or reject the gift.
They’re hot for each other again — sneaking away from work to screw on the sofa, making the same excuses to Lucy and Robert they’ve made to each other for years.
The drama boils over during the son’s visit. Joel (Tyler Ross), long disgusted by his parents’ loveless union, has prepared his girlfriend Erin (Jessica Sula) for the worst;We root for and Michael as they try to present the best versions of themselves to Erin, and Jacobs’ screenplay seems pointed toward a confrontation that will offer both catharsis and second chances all around.
As with most things here, it doesn’t quite work as expected.
The Lovers Official Trailer 1 (2016)
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