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Debra Winger and Tracy Letts play a long-married, dispassionate couple who are both in the midst of serious affairs. But on the brink of calling it quits, a spark between them suddenly reignites, leading them into an impulsive romance.
Director: Azazel Jacobs
Writer: Azazel Jacobs
Stars: Debra Winger, Tracy Letts, Aidan Gillen
Review by Gilbert Seah
Filmmakers have alway been fascinated with ex-wives with the best romantic comedies (this reviewed film included) been made on this subject. Immediately coming to mind are Paul Mazursky’s 1973 BLUME IN LOVE where George Segal spends the entire film wooing his ex-wife played by Susan Anspach and the 2001 French film MA FEMME EST UNE ACTRICE where actor/director Yvan Attal falls in love with his ex-wife played by his real life wife Charlotte Gainsbourg.
When I first saw the trailer for THE LOVERS which is advertised as a grown-up comedy about a married couple who cheat on their lovers – with each other, I had the least desire to watch the film. But as fate turns out, THE LOVERS turns out to be a brilliantly executed piece of work that excels in all departments.
Jacob’s’s film is one of the most romantic films seen in a while, and filled with romantic touches. Gestures like husband Michael placing his hand on wife, Mary’s shoulder or talking ‘duck’ takeout to her on the cell phone demonstrate a true and sincere love that many couple should follow.
Michael and Mary are a decades long married couple with a son coming home from college with his girlfriend. Each is having an affair and both intend to end the marriage after the son’s visit.
Mary is played by three time Oscar nominee Debra Winger (SHADOWLANDS, AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN and TERMS OF ENDEARMENT). Michael is played by the excellent Tracy Letts, who many might not know. Letts is a Tony-Award winning actor from WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? and he was also remarkable in the supporting role of the Dean at the college in last year’s INDIGNANT). Letts displays a kinder and more charming character than his other two previously mentioned roles. Letts is a total charmer (to his wife, mistress and to the audience) able too, to elicit total sympathy despite cheating on his wife – quite the accomplishment. In the scene where his son Joel (Tyler Ross) calls him a cheating piece of shit, and he walks away head lowered and mutters, “I am”. One can immediately sense the presence of a great actor.
Composer Mandy Hoffman exceptional score has a retro feel for most of it is written in E-flat, reflecting the sensation of Mary and Michael’s off-kilter world. Near the end, it switches to a sharp key, providing a new joyfulness. A key scene of the film at the end has actor Letts playing the piano and singing the 1971 Labi Shiffre song “It Must be Love” while images of both Michael and Mary’s present and past loves flash across the screen. The original pop song performed by the group Madness was tacky but Jacobs lifts this song to a whole new level for his film. It is a scene that shows that the choice of a partner is not always an easy one and that it can be painful to be so much in love.
Jacob’s film also manages to elude the typical ending where Michael and Mary decide on staying or leaving. It is a sort of fade-to-black but subtly done. But mostly, THE LOVERS is a film about love that has survived because love that can never die.
Warning: Bring lots of Kleenex for the movie. A totally charming and entertaining love story that is still an eye-opener for everyone who has been in a relationship.
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