By Shelby Fielding (Lubbock, Texas)
Marriage is an arduous and profound process that not only has the problem of possibly losing excitement, but also the dilemma of learning how to fall in love with each other all over again during those difficult processes. Azazel Jacobs The Lovers depicts this interpretation of marriage in a refreshingly detailed manner that portrays the cliché romance comedy of an elderly married couple in a different and original way. The Lovers focuses on an older married couple who seem to be drifting away from each other, and at the same time, both of them are having affairs with other lovers. But, after a new spark is ignited between them, they begin having this impulsive relationship that causes confusion between each other and causes they’re partners to develop resentment for their lover’s spouse. This narrative is an enticingly beautiful perspective on this overdone genre, and The Lovers is a remarkable addition to A24 studios filmography as well a giant stepping stone for the young up and coming to filmmaker Azazel Jacobs.
The Lovers is a simple, straightforward narrative that reveals itself very early, leaving the rest of the films ninety-seven minute run time to become supplied with unpredictability. Azazel Jacobs is the sole reason for this occurring with his clever screenplay. A screenplay that is vastly dense as well as light hearted with some inexplicably humorous sequences with this couples lovers that become so hilariously frustrated with their predicament. To a point where Michael’s (Tracy Letts) girlfriend, Lucy (Melora Walters), arrives at Michael’s house as his wife, Susan (Lesley Fera), is pulling into the driveway and instead of responding with some dramatic dialogue to Susan’s questioning of why she is there. Lucy instead hisses at her and raises her hands like a cat with claws. In a very out of the water and awkwardly funny interaction between these two characters first interplay with each other. There are multiple other amusing sequences and interactions with these characters that at times artistically symbolizes the awkward space that can surround a marriage when an unexpected spark rears its head out of the grave.
The narrative also feels focused in its timing with this entire film taking place within the time of a couple of weeks with the climax of the film surrounding the arrival of their son, Joel (Tyler Ross), and his girlfriend Erin (Jessica Sula). This peak of the narrative displays how the script is soaked in realism with every plot development in the film feeling necessary and sensical. None of the narratives developments ever feel out of place or unnecessary with the characters betraying their intentions or motivations. Instead, Azazel Jacobs stays focused on depicting a broken marriage by providing the audiences with glimmers of hope that are combatted with the realism of our humanity, reminding me that while some of us wish that romance would work out as it does in the fantasies of cinema, instead of relationships usually falter due to our selfish desires of lust and value. We all wish to be appreciated by those we love, yet sometimes no matter how much affection you place on someone they still may refuse to devote themselves to you due to their overwhelming desire for the value that someone else can present to them, a bitterly sweet truth that Azazel Jacobs also showcases in his direction.
The direction is unnoticeable in a marvelous way. Azazel strays away from making himself a star of the film, by focusing on using close-ups and medium shots of these characters and their dialogue. Letting these characters overtake the screen and relying purely on their performances to carry the films refreshingly written screenplay. These performances are well worth it for sure, with Tracy Letts and Lesley Fera carrying the weight of this film in a tremendously mesmerizing fashion. Tracy showcases once again that his range as an actor is limitless in multiple ways. As he did in James Schamus Indignation and Daniel Ragussis Imperium, he continues to showcase how he can so easily become so loveable and heartfelt with his facial expression showing his sad realization of his mistakes.
Lesley Fera finally returns to form with an immersive performance that makes it difficult to distinct the character from the actress which is something very few actresses can do. However, the two unsung stars of The Lovers and Aidan Gillen who portrays Robert who is Susan’s (Lesley) lover and Melora Walters, Lucy, whose Michael’s (Tracy) partner. These two performances hold the film together and keep it from straying too far into realism to become a drama. While at times some may consider them a nuisance, these characters keep the comical facets of the genre interlocked into the film. With both of them being absurdly ridiculous at times, Aidan Gillen and Melora Walters provide two of essential performances to balance the film out from becoming a melancholy drama instead of the witty comedy with thought provoking iterations on love and marriage that are undeniably moving.
The Lovers is an incredibly fresh irritation of a classic genre that remarkably stood out for me, and, may slowly begin to rear its head again later in the year for one of my top ten films of the year. Azazel Jacobs constructs a delightfully charming film that places itself in a genre filled with lackluster filmmaking and lackadaisical performances. The Lovers excels in both of those aspects as A24 hits another home run becoming a reliable studio for independent immersive filmmaking to combat the overwhelming amount of passable blockbusters. A24 is a studio that is providing initiatives in filmmaking to deliver some of us film enthusiasts with a calmness to the future of filmmaking, allowing us to become a bit more relaxed when going to sit down to watch a movie with the A24 logo stapled onto its name, something that few other studios can say right now in the current filmmaking landscape.