A friend of mine claims that because her parents never got divorced, she can’t handle fictional separations. Turns out I share this intolerance, because getting through The Lovers was a struggle.

Stealing the plot of Tom Stoppard’s OG infidelity play The Real Thing, the Lovers are Mary (Debra Winger) and Michael (Tracy Letts), unhappily married baby boomers who are cheating on each other, and then start cheating on their ~*vaguely artsy*~ sidepieces with... each other! How zany! How unexpected! How sad to waste the talents of Winger and Letts on such a thin premise!

Melora Walters and Aiden Gillen are equally flattened into the thankless roles of “shrill secret girlfriend who is also a modern dancer” and “obnoxious secret fuckboy who is also a writer.” (Why Mary and Michael are willing to give up their beautiful home and dish collection for the needy histrionics of adult toddlers is never explained.)

Everybody in The Lovers is so selfish and callow that I felt almost insulted watching it. Perhaps that’s intentional. If so, fine. But there are other issues. Most glaringly, Mary and Michael’s instantly revitalized relationship makes zero sense. With no clear catalyst, it seems vaguely supernatural.

And who knows! Maybe magic would help! Without it, The Lovers is a dispiriting parade through all of the worst parts of adulthood. It’s a movie in love with its own solipsism and indulgent of its awful protagonists, despite evidence that they’ve saddled their son (Tyler Ross) with major trust and anger issues. At one point, we see him with his girlfriend’s parents. As I watched a blandly pleasant depiction of a family who actually seem to like each other, I wished I was watching a movie about them instead. recommended