'The Lovers': Tribeca Review

Screen International, April 24, 2017 | Go to article overview

'The Lovers': Tribeca Review


Director Azazel Jacobs shows a lot of promise in this shrewd, if not altogether satisfying, Debra Winger-starring comedy for A24

Dir. Azazel Jacobs, USA, 2017, 94 minutes

In The Lovers, the problem of adultery in a wilted marriage is treated with more adultery, this time between the very spouses who were cheating on each other. This sex comedy by Azazel Jacobs (Momma's Man) has a high concept that feels lifted from a French movie. It's America, though, so the clothes aren't as fashionable, and the lovers aren't quite as sexy. It aims relatively high - in terms of the age of its characters - and will target an older audience as it travels worldwide through Sony, which has taken all rights for this A24-backed feature.

The Lovers is an existentialist proposition masquerading as a sex comedy

The return of Debra Winger to the screen will bring her fans to The Lovers, and the film's frankness about sex in a longterm marriage could help find it a public. Middle-aged Michael (Tracy Letts) and Mary (Winger) are in a lifeless dead-end marriage that shows no sign of regeneration. Each is having an extra-marital affair. Michael is sleeping with tempestuous ballet teacher (Melora Walters), and Mary is with a younger actor (Aidan Gillen). Each of the new partners threatens to break off the affair if Michael and Mary stay married.

The Lovers is set in a non-descript anywhere that looks a lot like California. The wit is in the situation, rather than the dialogue. It also isn't about dazzling anyone visually, yet DP Tobias Datum does get the right look of people who feel trapped. Letts and Winger play an every-couple that may have seemed sexy to someone, sometime in the past. Each faces so much pressure to leave the marriage that you're left wondering why either affair continues. Aren't infidelities supposed to be about pleasure?

Jacobs who wrote the script, has put his characters in a quandary. They cheat on each other and lie about it, yet the alternative of being harangued by a new lover seems so unappealing that the prospect of sneaking sex with one's own spouse becomes tempting.

The Lovers is an existentialist proposition masquerading as a sex comedy. That concept comes as no surprise, given Jacobs's 2005 film, Momma's Man, a dark spare meditative comedy about an adult son living as a recluse in his parents' New York loft, featuring Jacobs's parents as the parents in the film and filmed in their own home. …

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