THE LOVERS review by Patrick Hendrickson – Tracy Letts & Debra Winger cheat with themselves

THE LOVERS review by Patrick Hendrickson – Tracy Letts & Debra Winger cheat with themselves


THE LOVERS is a story about an older married couple, both of them are having affairs and both are at the point of being ready to divorce and move on with their other partners. It is never expressly stated that the two are aware of the cheating, but it is heavily implied that they do know what’s going on and are indifferent to it. The two leads of this film are Michael (played by Tracy Letts) and Mary (played by Debra Winger), and both lead actors do a great job in their roles, which is good because their characters are present throughout the vast majority of the film. There are rarely any scenes without one of these two in the shot. The other two notable characters are the two people that Michael and Mary are cheating with. Melora Walters plays Lucy who is cheating with Michael, and Aidan Gillen plays Robert who is cheating with Mary. These two both do admirable jobs in their roles as well. Melora in particular plays her character as very quirky and with a high-energy.

Both Lucy and Robert are fed up by the start of the movie as these affairs have been going on for quite some time with no end in sight. That is until Michael and Mary’s son Joel calls and announces he will be visiting sometime soon with his girlfriend Erin. Joel and Erin are the only innocent people in this entire movie, and the only other two significant characters. Joel is played by Tyler Ross, who probably gives the strongest performance of them all. Erin is played by Jessica Sula who also puts in a good job. Tyler Ross is the standout performance here as he really brings across the pain that all of this is causing Joel, despite him only being in about a third of the movie.

Things start to come to a head as Joel’s visit comes nearer and nearer. The most surprising thing that happens is Michael and Mary’s relationship being reignited in a very passionate way. In fact, things reignite so passionately that they start to neglect their other partners and consider staying together. The ironic reason behind this is that Michael and Mary have gotten so sick of sneaking around and the drama associated with it that they find solace in each other. One would think that the affair would be the easier relationship to deal with.

Somewhat surprisingly, there is never any meeting between the husband and wife and their respective partners. Both Lucy and Robert confront Mary and Michael respectively but never while the other is present. This is a point in the movie’s favor as it would have been a little generic to have a big blowout between the four of them.

Another strength of this movie is a lack of any context for what happens in the narrative. There are never any flashbacks to the start of Michael or Mary’s marriage or the start of their affairs or anything along those lines. This keeps the movie moving forward and keeps the story from dragging. The clearly approaching climax is Joel’s visit which Michael and Mary both plan to reveal their infidelities and to leave each other immediately after. All of this keeps the movie at a good pace and the run time is already fairly short, which is another point in its favor.

Joel’s visit leads to the strongest scenes in the entire production. The portrayal of a family that knows it is breaking apart and knows there is no way to stop it is genuinely heart-breaking. If the ending had kept this emotional tone going it would have been a great finale to the film, but unfortunately this is not the case. The emotional tone of this story is somewhat wrecked by the tongue-in-cheek ending. Without spoiling, it is safe to say that our two leads have learned nothing and likely are doomed to causing more pain to everybody involved in this mess.

THE LOVERS has a lot of emotion to it and a lot of funny scenes, the problem is that this can be very jarring at times as the emotional weight gets lost whenever some of the lackluster comedy rears its ugly head. Not all of the comedy falls flat as there are some pretty funny moments… but when it’s bad, it is really bad. Still, the story is good and the pacing of the film is excellent. All of the actors do a great job and the small cast means that each character is important in their own way. The biggest problem for the movie is the lack of a consistent tone and how the comedy works against the emotion that is built up so excellently at the end of the movie. Still, the production is a good one and even the ending does not outright ruin the experience. Overall, THE LOVERS gets a 4/5.

THE LOVERS is now playing in DFW at Angelika Plano and The Magnolia Theater

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