The Lovers (2017)
When a couple on the outs, Michael (multi-Tony winner Tracy Letts) and Mary (multi-Oscar nominee Debra Winger), rekindle what remaining spark they have just as they are ready to relocate their relationships, the change of feelings emotionally tears them in two. In writer-director Azazel Jacobs’ romantic comedy, the couple finds there is value in their longevity even when they have forgotten how to appreciate their partner. Warm and glowing, with a more-dramatic-than-the-subject-matter score that adds just the right punch, The Lovers is a story for adults trying to gain back a bit of their youth.
Opening with flowery strings, highlighting the misery and secrecy of an affair, the couple is downtrodden. Debra Winger is solemn, captivated by the excitement in her tryst, and Tracy Letts is subdued, trying to hide the younger woman’s flexibility from a rigid longtime wife. Neither one has passion for their relationship; a gaping void exists between them in bed until the passion reemerges, and they are a couple of horny teenagers. Flirtatious rendezvous between husband and wife adds to the comedy. A phone call here, a text message there, surrounded by bold-faced lies, is the most adorable manipulation since the Olsen twins convinced us chubby cheeks were equivalent to acting. I see why these two started affairs, but seeing them rediscover is romantic if not a bit unhealthy.
Winger is stunning in a hopeful comeback role, aged enough to meet Shirley MacLaine’s mother territory in her roles. Chugging at wine, disconnected from her husband, Mary is absent from Michael. The stunted conversation leaves gaps where years of unhappiness have produced chasms. Tracy Letts adds nothing to vibrate the domesticity. They’re thoroughly married and that’s about it. A seamless, listless team. The drama of their relationship, played up by Mandy Hoffman’s score, creates comedy in rekindling. A waltz in the tricky handling of philandering. A menacing prelude to a kiss followed by Vivaldi’s cheeriest springtime resolution. The dance they choose enlivens a seemingly overdone Getting Your Groove Back story and makes something sexy. Leave it to A24 to make Tracy Letts sexy…