My second movie from the Adelaide Film Festival lineup is The Lovers – directed by Azazel Jacobs; a big departure from my first selection (Human Flow). The movie is about a middle-aged couple, Mary (Debra Winger) and Michael (Tracy Letts) who are in the verge of a break-up. Both have their own lovers – Michael is dating Lucy (Melora Walters), whilst Mary is secretly seeing Robert (Aidan Gillen), a struggling writer. We are led to accept that their marriage has been beyond repair for a long while – Lucy is pressuring Michael to finally make the move to leave his wife; and at the same time, Robert has also asked Mary to be brave and leave Michael.
Pressured by both lovers, Mary and Michael promise them that they will leave each other once their son comes around for a visit. In this awkward situation, Mary and Michael end up being reluctant to spend time with their lovers and somehow rediscover the lost sparks with each other.
The movie is brought to life by the strong performance of Debra Winger and Tracy Letts – watching The Lovers is really like being in the audience of a stage play. Debra Winger is no longer a fresh-faced actress in An Officer and a Gentleman or Terms of Endearment, instead she has gone through life and fits the portrayal of Mary perfectly. Tracy Letts is also stellar as Michael – who finds comfort in a younger woman and is trying to live on one lie after another. The movie could have been a perfect juxtapose of marriage, infidelity and their issues – as well as our craving for excitement, while wanting to have our feet firmly on the familiar ground.
What is a bit of a mood destroyer is the background music.
On several scenes, it is overpowering like some thick, rich syrup that takes away the finer nuances that could have been brought to the surface as the focus. I know that we tend to be armchair critics and that we may not know the real intention by the director – however, I would’ve thought some sparse, acoustic music would be much better than a full orchestral treatment in almost.every.scene. I won’t spoil the story and the scenes to those of you who will see the movie, but Tracy Lett’s rendition of a popular song at the end is a perfect tune for the movie. This type of treatment should have been adopted for the movie instead of something that is overpowering.
All in all, I did enjoy the film – and I applauded Azazel Jacobs for the cheeky but adult ending to the story. The Lovers is not perfect, but it’s a perfect reminder of that old line from a Joni Mitchell’s song, “You don’t know what you’ve got, until it’s gone …”