Reviewing The Lovers is basically the equivalent to me standing quietly in the corner at a party where I don’t know anybody and trying to figure out what to do with my hands…
As a lifetime member of the most relentlessly-pandered-to demographic in cinema (young white dudes), it’s not often that I see a movie that’s simply not meant for me. How helpful will my take on The Lovers even be? Likely minimal. This review already reminds me of reading dude-bro male critics when the Ghostbusters reboot came out. Even the really well-developed opinions just didn’t seem to matter at all. Ghostbusters wasn’t made for them. The Lovers isn’t made for a guy like me, and that might be the best compliment I can give the film.
The Lovers follows the death rattle of a marriage between Michael (Tracie Letts) and Mary (Debra Winger). Both spouses are secretly planning to divorce, and they’re cheating on each other, but neither can bear to officially end the marriage. One day, Michael and Mary wake up to discover they’re almost cuddling. This “meet cute” in their own bed slowly rekindles the marriage, until they find themselves in the awkward position of “cheating” on their lovers by sleeping with their actual spouses. Clever, understated antics ensue. The Lovers isn’t necessarily an unfunny romantic comedy. The juxtaposition of such a contrived situational comedy that could only ever happen in a movie against sort of low-key “mumble core” style humor just doesn’t mix well.
At least I can appreciate how well-acted The Lovers is in any given scene. Letts, Winger and their lovers, played by Melora Walters and Aiden Gillen, are fine actors to hang out with for a bit. This is the point in the review where I essentially “check out” because this is when my technical criticism of the film stops and me watching a film just not being made for me begins. The Lovers features a great cast but their characters are just totally uncharismatic to me. The film is meant to be a “Gen X’s behaving badly” romp, and that’s fine. What cuts me off for the film is (1) I’m half the age of these characters and the “inside jokes” about middle age are totally lost on me, and (2) The Lovers characters sometimes cross the line of fun “behaving badly” into just being dicks.
To the film’s credit, my detachment is probably a good sign. I’m 24, and I can’t imagine director Azazel Jacobs thinking it’s a good thing that I like The Lovers. The film is unapologetic about its perspective. It’s a date movie for married couples with grandchildren and doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. Just like any of the men writing Ghostbusters reviews, a younger man writing a reviews of The Lovers is in and of itself somewhat missing the film’s point.
Still, before I go, there’s just one random story thing I want to address. I didn’t really have a way to segue organically. Okay, here it goes… The film spends a lot of time emphasizing that Michael and Mary work boring office jobs. They’re cheating on each other with a dancer and a writer. What’s up with that? There’s nothing wrong with dancing or writing, but it’s really, really hard to see what these lovers actually get out of their relationships with the married couple. How did any of these people even meet? What social circles consist of artists and office workers?
See? This is what I think about when I to have to consume a 94-minute story that I’m totally disconnected from.
Grade = C