About The Film
"I never thought I'd miss you half as much as I do
And I never thought I'd feel this way, the way I feel about you ..."
- "It Must Be Love," Labi Siffre
The marriage that has turned wickedly sour and the uncorked lust that reawakens
youth in a madcap surge have long been fertile staples of comic storytelling -
from the romantic farces of mainstream Hollywood to the heady comedies of Eric
Rohmer - but both things rarely occur simultaneously between the very same two
people. This is what happens in Azazel Jacobs' seemingly black yet unexpectedly
buoyant marital comedy, The Lovers, as he adds his own decidedly modern take to
the eternally entangled marital knot, one that is sharp and funny and movingly
empathetic all at once.
The Lovers is about an affair - but an affair that heats up, unforeseen, between
a disenchanted, dreaming-of-divorce couple who are each already having
complicated, adulterous affairs with two other people. Starring Debra Winger in
her most complex role in years and Tracy Letts in a breakout performance - as
the wife and husband two-timing on the lovers they are two-timing with - the
film hones in on the comedic, sometimes heartwrenching, ways that human beings
express their need to be loved.
Writer and director Jacobs has remarkably little in common with his film's
mid-life, philandering, office-haunting, suburban husband and wife. He has never
been divorced - and for that matter, neither have his filmmaker parents, who
have collaborated for decades. But what he does have is a fascination for the
paradoxes of love and how much trouble, some of it exhilarating, some of it
damaging and crazy-making, it is capable of stirring up in the complacent
routines and values of our lives.
"I'm in my 40s now, and I see a lot of people around me splitting up. In a
sense, I think writing this film was my way of protesting that," Jacobs muses,
"by looking at a love that finds a way to go on even when it appears to have
evaporated. I'm also always interested in stepping outside my world and
observing people in situations that I'm not in. I was really curious about how a
long-married couple functions when their affairs have actually become the
routine of the marriage. Michael and Mary have become completely comfortable
with having outside lovers, to the point that feeling love for one another
becomes an act of subversion."
Jacobs is renowned for making familiar movie themes feel freshly entertaining by
veering in unexpected directions. His last film, the Sundance hit Terri, broke
open the conventions of the standard adolescent comedy with a disarming
sincerity. Likewise, The Lovers starts with a set-up that has all the tropes of
a giddy, slapstick farce, or even a weepy melodrama of wronged spouses - yet he
then defies all those tropes, using this laugh-out-loud situation as a chance to
explore the subtler and beguilingly funny ways that tiny embers of love persist,
even when seemingly smothered in disillusion. It was, he admits, his biggest
writing challenge to date.
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