Directed by Azazel Jacobs. Starring Debra Winger, Tracy Letts, Aidan Gillen, Melora Walters, Lesley Fera, Tyler Ross, Eric Satterberg, Jessica Sula. (2017, R, 94 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., May 19, 2017
Lost in the doldrums of a marriage that long ago curdled into a duet of quiet despair, spouses Michael (Letts) and Mary (Winger) wander through their disaffected days like a pair of passive-aggressive ghosts. Certainly, the “’til death do us part” bit of their vows is moribund. They put up with each other out of sheer loveless inertia, communicating via monosyllabic non sequiturs at home while working soul-sapping jobs in the daytime. Twenty-five years into their lonely matrimony, Michael and Mary glance at each other with empty eyes, when they’re not avoiding each other entirely. Perhaps only Ashley Madison can provide some surcease to their sorrow, weak and weary as it is, to paraphrase Poe.
As it happens – and this is no spoiler – the two of them are engaged in extramarital affairs, Michael with high-strung, free-spirited dance instructor Lucy (Walters), Mary with struggling novelist Robert (Gillen). Both of these considerably younger lovers are demanding that Michael and Mary leave each other, and while there’s no obvious connection between Lucy and Robert, director Jacobs, who also wrote the script, creates exceptionally well done parallel plotlines, with the question being who will leave whom first? Or will they endure, perhaps polyamorously?
All four leads bring their A-game to this very adult, very real comedy of midlife crises. Winger is as good here as she’s ever been, and Letts, an actor whose face you know but whose name you can never quite remember, is terrific, communicating his lust for Lucy with dry aplomb. Winger, too, does more acting with an arched eyebrow or a pained smile than most more recently minted stars will manage over the entirety of their careers. It’s a tour de farce, except that the issues at the heart of The Lovers are deadly serious. Quoth the Allen, “The heart wants what it wants.”