Friday, May 26, 2017

The Lovers

Posted By on Fri, May 26, 2017 at 5:58 AM

Have you ever seen a movie and wondered what the filmmakers thought they were doing? I’m not talking about a candidate for the “How Did This Get Made?” podcast—I”m talking about a film that doesn’t have a discernible reason for being. That was my reaction to The Lovers.

Is it a comedy? Then it needs to be funnier. Is it a relationship drama? Then I need to actually care about the characters. Is it that elusive animal, the successful dramedy? Then it needs to be both funnier and more poignant. The Lovers fails all of those tests.

click to enlarge Deborah Winger and Tracy Letts demonstrate an activity more enjoyable than watching The Lovers.
  • Deborah Winger and Tracy Letts demonstrate an activity more enjoyable than watching The Lovers.

You never get a second chance to make a good first impression, and The Lovers blows it from the very start. Sure, this happens, but rarely does it happen in two different ways at the same time. Within minutes of the opening credits rolling, I was already annoyed by the busy, tone-deaf score. Then, we meet our first character, Michael (Tracy Letts). He’s in bed with Lucy (Melora Waters), who is crying. Turns out, Lucy is not Michael’s wife—that would be Mary, played by the great Deborah Winger. The very first note for The Lovers in my film notebook is this: “Old guy flops on bed. Overwrought performance. Soundtrack is overbearing and awful.” And it doesn’t get better.

It’s generally a bad sign when I make a lot of notes during a movie. The Lovers takes up six pages in my notebook. To give you the full experience of sitting through The Lovers, here is a annotated selection of some of my in-the-moment reactions.

“Spinning its wheels from the beginning”

“Beaten over the head with the score.”

“This fucking soundtrack!”
(The score is done by a full classical ensemble with strings and horns. Where the pacing of the story is slow to the point of stasis, perhaps to make room for anticipated but non-existent laughs, the soundtrack is bubbly and busy. It gives the impression that composer Mandy Hoffman is desperately trying to fill voids.)

“Sexually bored people being boring and unsexy”

“Is this the least sexy film about sex ever made? Maybe Caligula”
(Mary has her own boyfriend, Robert, played by Aiden Gillen, aka Littlefinger from Game Of Thrones. Like Michael and Lucy, they have very boring sex. It's not just that the sex scenes are unimaginatively filmed, which they are, but that the characters and actors alike seem to not be enjoying themselves, even though they're risking their entire boring suburban existences to have this boring sex. Perhaps this is supposed to be funny. It's not.)

“Sound mix is also bad.”

“Yep, just sitting in the waiting room reading magazines. That’s good cinema!”
(This is a literal description of what was happening on the screen for what seemed like a very long time.)

“These people are idiots, assholes, and not funny!”
(I don't usually use this many exclamation points in my notes.)

(The movie was less than half over.)


“Oh god I hate these people.”

On page four of my notes, I began aggressively doodling. I’m not much of a draughtsman, so my doodles tend to be grids, spirals, and easy geometric shapes, all of which were more interesting than The Lovers.

“Every scene goes on 50% too long.”

“Dialog is awful.”

“Cavalcade of bad directorial decisions”
(Winger is one of the greatest actresses of her generation. Letts is a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright with more than a dozen screen acting appearances. The fact that neither one of them turn in a decent performance lands the blame for this fiasco squarely on the shoulders of director Azazel Jacobs.)

“It’s like the same scene over and over again”

“All is folly and vanity”
(I was beginning to lose hope at this point.)

“Get these people therapy”

“Editing is horrible”

“What the hell kind of accent is Littlefinger peddling?”
(Gillen is from Ireland, but his character Robert is supposed to be a nebbishy, ineffectual American writer. For most of the film, he drifts in the void between accents. Then, in his big scene where he reveals his affair with Mary to Michael, he slips into his menacing Littlefinger voice. That was the only actual laugh this alleged comedy drew out of me.)


“Can’t settle on a tone. Can’t blend comedy and drama”
(I know Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul make it look easy, but dramedy is hard.)

“Sometimes I really hate movies”

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