By Gregg Shapiro
Writer/director Azazel Jacobs’ The Lovers (A24) is as much about a married couple who couldn’t remain faithful to each other as it is about their inability to be committed to anyone. Mary (Debra Winger making a long overdue return to movies) and Michael (the ubiquitous Tracy Letts) are at the tail end of a threadbare marriage. But inertia is preventing the couple from calling it quits.
That doesn’t mean that they haven’t found ways to get their jollies. Michael is involved with dancer/dance instructor Lucy (Melora Waters), who is as utterly in love with him as she is unbalanced. Her dramatic crying jags and demands are legendary. Mary is slightly better off with the lover that she has chosen. Writer Robert (Aidan Gillen) is hot, although his habit of hanging out in front of Mary’s office borders on stalking.
Distracted at their respective offices, Mary and Michael, keep promising their lovers that they will end their marriage so that they may be with them. Adding an increased level of stress is Mary and Michael’s son Joel (Tyler Ross), who is coming to town with his new girlfriend Erin (Jessica Sula).
Just as everything reaches a fever pitch, Mary and Michael suddenly find themselves passionately attracted to each other again. In other words, in addition to cheating on each other with their respective lovers, they are also cheating on their lovers with each other. Got that?
Funny, complex, surprising, intimate and draining in equal measure, The Lovers feels a little stagey, as if it was born in the theater before making its way to the big screen. Nevertheless, Winger turns in a marvelous late-career performance that makes getting involved with The Lovers worthwhile. Blu-ray special features include a pair of featurettes, as well as audio commentary by writer/director Jacobs.
Inspired by actual events, the Wyoming-set Wind River (Lionsgate) is a thriller with a message about the unaccounted for women who regularly go missing from Native American reservations across the country. The movie opens with a harrowing scene of a woman running barefoot across a snow-covered prairie, her face battered, until she falls over and dies.
The next day, we see Cory (Jeremy Renner), a sharpshooting Fish and Wildlife Service hunter, picking off a wolf to protect sheep grazing in a snowy pasture. Cory also has a tender side, which we witness as he picks up his young son Casey (Teo Briones) at the home of his ex-wife Wilma (Julia Jones). There is an unspoken sadness between the former husband and wife, which we later discover is due to the rape and murder of their teenaged daughter.
While another in a series of ferocious storms moves in, Cory is called to investigate a steer killed by a mountain lion on the Wind River Reservation. When looking for the mountain lion den, Cory finds the young woman’s dead body in the snow.
The FBI is contacted about the dead woman and Jane (Elizabeth Olsen), who had been on duty in Las Vegas and is the closest agent on the scene, arrives. From Fort Lauderdale, Jane is completely unprepared for the brutal environment in which she will be working. She borrows boots, a hat, gloves and other winter gear. The only way to get to the crime scene is by snowmobile.
As Jane moves forward with her investigation of the rape and murder of Natalie (Kelsey Asbille), she enlists Cory for his expertise in “hunting predators”. Cory, whose outsider status as a white man is overlooked because his ex-wife is Native American, is hesitant at first. His daughter was a friend of Natalie’s and suffered a similar fate. Cory agrees to help look for the killer as much for FBI as for himself and Natalie’s parents.
Jane and Cory’s search leads them into a variety of violent situations, including one at the drug den where Natalie’s tweaked-out brother Chip (Martin Sensmeier) lives with a group of lowlife meth-heads. When the dead body of Natalie’s boyfriend Matt (John Bernthal), who worked security on a drill site, is discovered in the woods, the intensity of the hunt increases.
A flashback scene to the night of Natalie’s brutal rape and a bloody standoff between law enforcement and the employees of the fuel company where Matt worked, more than justify Wind River’s R-rating. To its credit, Wind River succeeds in being both a riveting thriller and a social commentary, and that’s a rare combination. Blu-ray special features include a behind-the-scenes video gallery and deleted scenes.