“The Lovers,” coming to the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center on June 9, is a satire about a couple in their early 60s, directed by Azazel Jacobs. Their marriage has been on the skids for a number of years, but they each bring love into their lives through affairs.
Two well-regarded actors play the couple — Debra Winger as Mary, Tracy Letts as Michael. Winger is a three-time Oscar nominee, and Letts won a Pulitzer Prize for his drama, “August: Osage County.”
Cell phones help the two stay in touch with their lovers. In fact, you might say that that contemporary device is what makes their liaisons work. It certainly aids and abets their frequent lies. Mary sneaks calls to Robert (Aidan Gillen), a studly younger novelist, from work, her car, and occasionally even from home. Michael dials up his paramour Lucy (Melora Walters), an explosive dance teacher, the same way. It’s hard to see the appeal of either. Mary and Michael spend more time on their phones than in bed with their lovers. They’re not a romantic twosome with movie-star looks and a sparkle in their eyes. They both look draggy and saggy, and that’s part of the joke. Occasionally imbibing a glass of wine with each other or talking about toothpaste, they sleep in the same bed but with backs turned. Their nondescript California house and anonymous jobs add to the ordinariness of their lives and locale. Although silent on the subject, they probably know about each other’s affairs.
Complicating their lives is their son Joel (Tyler Ross), a resentful college student who’s coming home for a few days with his girlfriend Erin (Jessica Sula). It’s pretty clear Mary and Michael’s relationship with their son is as dysfunctional as their marriage. They can’t keep straight whether Joel is a vegetarian or a meat-eater, and Joel’s behavior is clearly hostile. He has a tendency to call his parents hypocrites and smash things before retreating to his room with Erin to sob. Mary and Michael seem resigned to their son’s lack of affection, and have made a plan to call it quits after his visit.
Everything changes the morning Mary and Michael wake up in each other’s arms. Torrid sex follows, along with frequent phone calls and further liaisons. What ultimately happens is both anticipated and unexpected. It turns this dark comedy into a telling commentary on contemporary life and mores.
Information and tickets for “The Lovers” and other Martha’s Vineyard Film Center films available at mvfilmsociety.com.