THE LOVERS: Love The One You’re With
The Lovers is an alternative romance that considers the harsh reality that maybe one love isn't forever, and is simply the stuff of movies.
Written and directed by Azazel Jacobs, The Lovers is an unconventional romantic comedy about the vicissitudes experienced by a soon-to-be divorced couple. Starring Debra Winger and Tracy Letts as the woebegone Mary and Michael, Jacobs’s latest feature attempts to ground itself against the inherently impetuous tides of a highly unusual romantic tryst. Equally determined to divorce the other and fall back into the arms of their newfound lovers – enter Aidan Gillen and Melora Walters – The Lovers soon sees its titular paramours falling back into each other’s arms in an attempt to find new meaning in a marriage on the brink of collapse.
Watching Winger and Letts dance circles around each other in a dizzying display of arrogance, passion, and naïveté provides for a disconcerting bit of emotional choreography to philosophically track. In the film’s best moments, Jacobs leans on the performances given by his seasoned lead actors, and with the help of a musical score consisting of classical compositions, The Lovers floats on the air of its own triviality.
Lacking any overt dramatic stakes – save for a thematically dissonant third act that introduces a form of antagonism otherwise absent in the script – Jacobs has miraculously upended the classic romantic comedy template and delivered a film about the emotional distance between two people who still feel some fondness for one another in absentia.
Accidentally In Love
Miraculously, the very best moments in The Lovers occur without any ceremony, pomp, or circumstance. Choosing to open his film with Winger and Letts struggling to come to terms with their impending divorce, Jacobs interprets infidelity as an ambiguous satire of romantic intimacy. Neither Mary nor Michael is especially dedicated to their prospective significant others, but over the course of the following ninety-seven minutes they each come to find some kind of peace and resolve in their pending separation.
Over the course of one final fling together in a state of temporary matrimonial bliss, Winger and Letts operate as double agents and co-conspirators against an unsuspecting Gillen and Walters. Despite presumably finding greater happiness outside of their marriage, Mary and Michael can’t help but look back and wonder at what used to be. With a self-sufficient son in college and a comfortable domestic lifestyle to fall back on in the evening, The Lovers is almost a film about the integrity and fortitude to be found and fought for within the bounds of marriage.
Except Jacobs is equally willing to explore the extent to which the human heart is an ever maleable facet of the human condition. Rather than forcing any one of his romantic subjects to become exclusively attached to one partner, The Lovers is more than willing to allow its players to exchange their significant others for another more appealing parter on a whim. Promiscuity is not only excused by Jacobs but is encouraged as an inevitable triumph of the human spirit.
Romantic exclusivity has long been a tantamount goal of the romantic comedy genre. From When Harry Met Sally to Love Actually, the goal of falling in love in the movies is to find one person to share your life and love with forever. In The Lovers, such a sentiment is patently ridiculous and realistically untenable. Times change, and so do people, and with both elemental forces comes the dissolution of relationships euphemistically meant to last for an eternity.
If people can’t stay dedicated to one person for their entire lives, then The Lovers is a prime cinematic interpretation of an unpopular reality. Divorce is certainly not uncommon, and by virtue of its abundant presence with the culture perhaps marriage shouldn’t be held to the kind of gold standard popularly bandied about the romantic comedy genre. Nora Ephron may have wanted to be in love in the movies, but for the rest of us The Lovers may ring more true.
Jacobs‘ intentions in writing and directing The Lovers are often opaque and broadly applied to a cinematic canvas teeming with indecision and playful irreverence. Winger and Letts find themselves continuing to speak to one another in loving terms in the film’s final epilogue, but their divorce still stands as a hard earned reality. As the seminal Stephen Stills song goes, if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.
The Lovers may not be for everyone, as the majority of the film lingers too long upon scenes and conversations that often serve to stagnate in a state of frustrating indecision. Jacobs takes perhaps too much time in coming to a conclusion in his latest motion picture, and when he finally does the state in which he leaves Mary and Michael feels abrupt.
Yet the many scenes and sequences in which Winger and Letts spend wandering a series of misanthropic dramatic digressions is also the entire point. The Lovers doesn’t allow its subjects to easily find one another and walk away happily ever after. Jacobs intends to withhold any arbitrary happy ending from occurring as his characters are far more idiosyncratically inclined than even the most flighty and feather-headed Meg Ryan character you could possibly imagine.
There is no happy ending to The Lovers, but there is a cathartic conclusion. As we see Winger and Letts stealing another brief moment of intimacy together before the final credits begin to roll, there is some catharsis to be found, no matter how fleeting it may be.
Are you a fan of romantic comedies? If not, what do you think is the most unrealistic aspect of the genre? Tell us in the comments below!
The Lovers saw theatrical release in the U.S. on May 5, 2017. For international release dates, click here.
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