Nobody can slash away better at the notion of marital bliss than Ingmar Bergman, but Azazel Jacobs does it the American way with lots of comic touches and without the mystical or iconic accoutrements. The director, whose “Momma’s Man” finds a gent who has been avoiding his wife and child, is following in the same territory here. With the great Debra Winger in a title role of Mary (actually there are five lovers all told) and Tracy Letts as her husband Michael, the story takes off as a traditional cheating-wife, cheating-husband merry-go-roundelay, neither husband nor wife fully knowing about the lovers on the side and yet not without suspicions given the “gotta work late at the office” excuse—one that could easily be checked out by simply calling the offices.
This is the kind of movie that would appeal mostly to middle-aged and older audiences—a shame, since youths can learn lessons by watching the antics of those decades older. Both are working in cubicles, both “work late” at the office. Michael has an imaginary friend called Ben with whom he “has drinks late at night” when he is not “working late at the office.” Instead of seeing Ben, he cavorts with a professional dancer, Lucy (Melora Walters), who is apparently unmarried and feels lonely whenever she is without Michael’s company. For his part, a youthful Robert (Aidan Gillen), also free, has attached himself to Mary despite an age difference, at one point demanding that she make up her mind and leave her husband or he’s outta there.
There’s one great scene with which people in the movie audience can identify if they’ve ever thought of leaving their spouse or significant other. What if the partner with whom they enjoy cheating will stay with the spouse, not just as a convenience, but because the married couple realize they really love each other? In that scene, Mary and Michael awake one morning, still dazed, thinking that they are in bed with their outside lovers. They kiss and suddenly the flame arises. This is probably the kind of wet dream that a man or woman goes through, thinking that maybe they will not only stay together but like the idea.
Complications arise when Michael and Mary’s son Joel (Tyler Ross) visits with his girlfriend, Erin (Jessica Sula) for a three-day stay, expecting to see fireworks but wondering why dad and mom are so lovey-dovey. Obviously they are role-playing for the benefit of their young guests, no? In fact the young seems even to hope that the parents will let loose against each other rather than play a game for the sake of the visitors.
The best part of the movie is in the final scene, when an arrangements has worked out that we didn’t see coming. Thinking back from there, you’ve got to acknowledge that, yes, Michael and Mary have taken us on a ride wherein we wonder what will happen when the young visitors leave. And they do something that probably surprising them even more than it does the movie audience. A nice, mordant comedy.