Probably every long-time married couple will acknowledge that every once in a while the rapture will wear off. If they’re lucky they will find a spark that reignites their romance. If not, they may turn to a lover or a divorce.
That’s the situation that Mary and Michael find themselves in after 25 years of a tumultuous marriage. The film, “The Lovers,” written and directed by Azazel Jacobs, stars the middle-aged but still beautiful Debra Winger as Mary, and actor and prodigious playwright Tracy Letts (“August-Osage County” is one of his) as Michael.
In the opening scene, as each of them is getting ready to go to work, Michael shouts from the bathroom that they’re almost out of toothpaste. Mary goes on dressing and doesn’t respond. And that’s all the communication they have before they leave the house.
This small scene expertly reveals the state of their relationship. It’s not that they’re angry with each other. They’re both just terribly bored.
Each of them works in an office, but they are indifferent to their jobs and never discuss them when they come home. In fact, you never find out what exactly they do each day. That’s because what’s important to them is not their jobs, but the time they spend with their lovers.
Using the traditional excuse of “having to work late at the office,” or indulging in “long lunches” that don’t involve food, each of them keeps up an affair that provides them with spiritual nourishment, attention, sex, and the illusion of love.
Michael’s partner is an intensely bitchy, insecure dance teacher named Lucy (played by Melora Walters), who spends most of the time berating him at the top of her lungs.
Mary’s “significant other” is a novelist named Robert (played by Aidan Gillen). Very different from the tongue-tied, undemonstrative Michael, Robert continually expresses his love for her and implores her to marry him.
All this is presented as the background for a totally unexpected plot twist.
Coming home late one night after having decided, inexplicably, not to spend the evening with Lucy, Michael suddenly becomes newly aware of Mary and begins to stare at her intensely. It’s a look that she hasn’t seen for a long time, and recognizing it, she leans toward him and gives him a tentative kiss. And that begins the renewal of their previous passion.
Invigorated by their new “affair” with each other, they nevertheless continue with their extramarital affairs with Lucy and Robert while they contemplate this new situation. And since neither of them has confessed to their secret infidelities, they now find themselves in the peculiar position of cheating on their lovers when they make love to each other.
In the midst of all this, their college son Joel (Tyler Ross) comes home for a visit to introduce his girlfriend Erin (Jessica Sula) to his parents. He had already prepared her by telling her that his parents hated each other, and so they were both surprised to be welcomed by a warm, charming, and obviously loving couple.
But that isn’t the end of the film.
“The Lovers” is a delightful movie. It balances angst with humor, emotional revelations with tiny nuances, and acting so authentic that these characters are recognizable as people you actually know.
Beautifully mounted by director of photography Tobias Datum and enhanced by the expressive score of composer Mandy Hoffman, you’ll find yourself loving “The Lovers”.
The film opens tomorrow (Friday, May 5th) at the Monica Film Center, 1332 2nd Street, Santa Monica.