I really like Debra Winger and I’ve missed seeing her onscreen in the sixteen years since we last saw her in a theatrical feature. Her superb performance in The Lovers—one of the best things about the film and something that almost single-handedly saved the picture for me—brought that all back to me in a way I hadn’t expected. Winger is one of those actresses having a certain something that’s indefinable but also unmistakable. Seeing her in The Lovers I couldn’t help but believe that I’d be inclined to see her act out sections of a telephone directory if that were the case.
The premise of The Lovers is certainly unique. At least I can’t recall seeing anything quite like it in my years of movie going. Here we have two people, Mary and Michael (Winger and the playwright and Tony-winning actor, Tracey Letts), married for decades, who’ve grown so bored and accustomed to each other that they’ve decided to conduct affairs. The passion has long dissipated in their relationship. Then one day, suddenly and without warning, the couple have a renewed interest in each other leading to complications wherein the couple have to begin making excuses to their current bedroom partners (Melora Walters, Aiden Gillen).
Their son (Tyler Ross), who’s grown to accept that his parents are going through the motions in their marriage, comes into the picture during the final act of the film. He wants to introduce his girlfriend to his family and is quite taken aback when he discovers that his mom and dad seem to be crazy for each other. This, of course, is something he certainly wasn’t counting on and he finds it a bit disconcerting.
It must be mentioned that Tracey Letts, who plays the husband in the film, is also a very strong asset as well. Letts was in so many films last year in supporting roles that I lost count and he’s really becoming a welcome presence in films like this. Having him play opposite Winger in this film as a male lead is an incredibly brilliant strike of good casting and their chemistry is quite palpable in the film.
If there is a quibble to be made it would be at the ‘gotcha’ ending that concludes The Lovers. It never feels exactly like the logical ending and seems a bit as if it was thrown in just to surprise as opposed to an organic story development. Still, when you have actors as good as Letts and Winger it’s awfully hard to complain.
Winger and Letts in The Lovers
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