STARS: Debra Winger, Tracy Letts, Melora Walters, Aidan Gillen
DIRECTOR: Azazel Jacobs
How many times can you lie to your spouse and get away with it? Indefinitely, apparently (or nearly the length of an entire movie), when both partners are doing it in the casually absent-minded way of those who've settled into the comfortable but dispassionate rut that all long-term relationships seem to be subject to at one point or another. The Lovers, then, could have aptly been titled The Liars. The Lovers is a good title, though, because it implies the irony of the situation.
Mary (Debra Winger) and Michael (Tracy Letts) are a mid-life couple who are cheating on each other. Michael's muse is Lucy (Melora Walters), a children's ballet teacher. Mary's new squeeze is Robert (Aidan Gillen), a younger, aspiring writer. Both Mary and Michael are under pressure from their lovers to end their spousal relationship. The tension builds, often in subtle comic fashion, as neither of them are quite up to the task of following through. But their college student son and his girlfriend will be coming home for a visit, and each of them plans to drop the bombshell on the other right after the kids leave. Then a funny thing happens. Out of the blue, Michael and Mary start getting randy with one another again. It's that everything-old-is-new-again thing, brought about by that everything-new-gets-old-again thing. OMG--now they're cheating on their lovers with each other! There's your story complication, and we are half grinning, half cringing for the remainder.
Things are not this breezy all the way through. Michael and Mary's son (Tyler Ross) acts more like a five year-old throwing a temper tantrum than a young man who's been on his own in the world for a little while. His behavior stands as a ringing indictment of his upbringing, something else that his parents will ultimately have to reflect upon. It all comes to a head in the powerful climactic scene. Here's where Debra Winger, one of the best in the business, gets to shine.
Winger, at age 62 in real life, is still eminently doable, in my book. So it's not at all implausible that she, as Mary, would draw the attention of a younger man. Lucy and Robert are also attractive people. The oddball in this foursome is Michael. He is the epitome of nondescript, and borders on what Marlon Brando might refer to as a "big tub o' guts" (beaucoup points for you if you can name the Brando flick that comes from!) Why either Mary or Lucy would have been drawn to him in the first place is unclear. Was this an error in casting (Tracy Letts)? I thought so at first. Then I realized that when I am out and about, I see what appear to be mismatched couples all the time. Only THEY know what the attraction is, but if they are happy, more power to 'em.
The Lovers shows us the fickle frailty of the human heart, and why it's constantly tripping us up. It's saying things we already know to be true, but are too bound by convention to admit to one another... or to ourselves.