The Lovers Screen 12 articles

The Lovers

2017

The Lovers Poster
  • Jacobs films a romantic comedy (albeit one with few laughs) with such a plain and direct fullness that the movie exhausts itself in its conception and sits inert on the screen like an undigested mass of script pages. Whatever life it has is provided by the exertions of its stars, Debra Winger and Tracy Letts. But, lacking anything in the script to infuse with life, they mainly just show up and follow the steps.

  • Falling with a thud between two stools, it has neither the zip nor the zaniness of farce nor the airy vivacity of the best romantic comedies. The sugary, violin-heavy score that elbows its way into virtually every scene might beg to differ, but its cudgeling chords can’t force enchantment when, improbably, Mary and Michael’s jaded passions are rekindled.

  • It's that rare thing: a serious romantic comedy with farcical elements that never puts a foot wrong. Writer-director Azazel Jacobs (“Terri”) seems to know that there is no margin for error with this kind of project, and so he plans out his comedic scenes with both precision and sophistication.

  • The movie feels uncannily like a stage play flailing to justify its transition to a different medium. A family reunion where buried secrets come to the foreground—a tried-and-true theater trope—animates the second half of the screenplay, and the film's dual leads are exceedingly charming even as they play to the rafters.

  • As he did in his two previous features — Momma's Man (2008), a wry, tender rejoinder to the comedies of male regression then ascendant, and Terri (2011), a high school movie orbiting around a mountainous, pajama-clad protagonist — Jacobs lets casually observed details and offhand humor advance the story. There are no grand pronouncements in The Lovers, which smartly communicates its ideas about relationships during its long stretches of silence.

  • Jacobs gives the movie the classic structure of a comedy of remarriage, pulling off an apt ending that transcends irony without exactly transcending the film’s badly strained third act. Despite the implied symmetry (two quasi-bohemian lovers, a reversal of attractions, etc.), much of what makes The Lovers so compelling is the way it observes the differences between Mary and Michael, two people who are escaping the same marriage in the same way for different reasons.

  • This is Azazel Jacobs' version of a comedy of remarriage, and although it seems as if a lot more could be done with the reversal premise, it does work, mostly because he has two of the finest actors around cast as his leads. Debra Winger and Tracy Letts play the whole thing straight, like a genuine problem, a small and then growing mass of quotidian stumbling blocks. "Why am I starting to _like_ you again?"

  • Jacobs allows his superb actors to graciously and emphatically usurp the stage... Letts’ abilities hearken to his voice, Winter’s settle on to her visage. He advantages his theater-friendly baritone to assert every syllable of fresh excuse to his wife or girlfriend, while Winger telegraphs hurt and anticipatory lust with her eyes, fatigued with clement resignation.

  • This is a picture with stylization that some will find off-putting, but the actors are totally in sync with it, and its through line is remarkably consistent... The wisdom of this meticulously crafted film is in its genuine irony, which amplifies steadily throughout until culminating in a moment of real heartbreak that, ironically enough, only sets the stage for a cycle of deceit to begin again.

  • Letts and Winger are marvelous here: Both know how to express vulnerability without succumbing to self-pity or self-righteous victimhood. The Lovers is also bracingly forthright about sex—not just in terms of talking about it, but in showing it—and both Letts and Winger are wholly comfortable in their skin, even in the semi-buff.

  • It exudes generosity and a delight in filmmaking in every scene—watching it just makes me feel good. Perhaps the film's modesty has kept it off year-end lists. The Lovers doesn't appear to be more than a relaxed character comedy about bland middle-class people, and the banal settings (suburban townhomes and office buildings) add to its unassuming veneer. Yet the movie conjures a certain wonderment regardless, depicting the transformative power of romantic love with a fittingly romantic style.

  • In an offhand way that summons the ghost of Jean Renoir, The Lovers embraces the wayward, messed-up humanness of its characters—an acceptance that extends, deliciously, through the supposed end of the story—and opts not to scold or punish. In that, it couldn’t be more out of touch with our times.

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