Love the one you’re with. And the others on the side.
Mary (Debra Winger) and Michael (Tracy Letts) have been married for quite some time and as is usually the case with aging couples, things have gotten a little sour, a little boring, and most of all, a little dull. And because of that, they’ve both taken up with significant others to keep their lives happy, exciting, and above all else, worth going on for. Mary has Robert (Aidan Gillen), while Michael has Lucy (Melora Walters), and while both relationships can be definitely classified as “affairs”, they’re beginning to take on new lives as something far more serious and possibly even permanent. But here’s the thing: Mary and Michael are still together and don’t really know how to approach the issue of breaking up. And now with their son (Tyler Ross) coming home from college for a short bit, they especially don’t know what to do now. Should they break-up and move on, like they really want to? Or stick around and stay together, for a short time? Then again, they’re a married-couple so, who knows, old passions may come back.
The whole central joke surrounding the Lovers is this: Although the movie is about this couple who have been married for quite some time, we’re still seeing them as anything but. They don’t screw one another, barely even talk to one another, and hell, are rarely even in the same room together. This is deliberate on the part of writer/director Azael Jacobs’ part and it’s a smart take on what could have been a very preachy, very annoying, and relatively very conventional story. We’ve all seen spouses cheating on spouses, have gotten those sob stories, and see how they have all played-out, but the Lovers, with its interesting angle is, at the very least, different.
Does that make it any better? Not necessarily and that’s sort of the problem.
See, Jacobs’ take on making this marriage seem very fake works for awhile, until the other cheek is turned, and oh man, they’re all of a sudden screwing, and kissing, and talking, and gasp, in the same rooms together. It’s a nice little change-of-pace, but it also feels like the movie’s still trying to make jokes, without ever really trying its hardest to get down deep into what really makes a marriage, well, a marriage. The Lovers does seem interested in trying to figure out what constitutes love, marriage, and why people stay together for so long, even if the spark isn’t there. And hell, when the spark isn’t there, what’s the best way to go about getting it all back? Continue to try to screw each other, or set one’s sights elsewhere?
And it’s not like these are all points I wanted to see addressed here, it’s more that the film does seem like it brings them up, but backs away as soon as an idea is about to be developed. Jacobs seems like he knows how to create smart and interesting situations, with even smarter, interesting pieces of dialogue, but the end result is odd, as if he’s more confused at the end, than before he even started. It’s odd and definitely hard to explain, but it’s one of the main reasons why throughout the Lovers, I couldn’t help but be frustrated.
The only true element saving me here were the great performances by all involved, save by one Tyler Ross.
And no, it’s not like I’m going to crash on him because he’s young and playing a weak character in the first place, but because he just does not sit right at all with the rest of the movie. For some reason, Jacobs has written him to be this angst-fueled, angry, pissed-off, and irritated kid who seems to hate his parents, whether together or not, and can’t, not for a single second, let things go as they appear to be. Every scene he’s either picking a fight, or looking like he’s about to explode, and eventually does and it seems so random, so crazy, and so over-the-top, it made me wonder if I accidentally sat on the remote and came upon the Lifetime channel. It sound dramatic, but that’s because it is and it’s so weird.
Thankfully, like I said, the other performances are all great, with Letts and Winger making the most out of their scenes together. Winger’s especially impressive because she shows some sad, yet honest emotions in a character who feels like she could have easily been slut-shamed, but surprisingly, she wasn’t. She’s just an older women, looking for a second chance at love, and possibly finding it – just not in her husband. It’s nice to see Winger around again and it makes me hope that she sticks around for some more roles, regardless of if she’s still a pain to get along with.
Consensus: With two great performances in the leads, the Lovers gets by as a mildly interesting and entertaining take on married-couples, yet, also feels like it has a lot to say, without ever fully getting to a point.
6.5 / 10