Thursday, July 31, 2014

Movie Review: Le Week-End

Le Week-End
Directed by: Roger Michell.
Written by: Hanif Kureishi.
Starring: Lindsay Duncan (Meg), Jim Broadbent (Nick), Jeff Goldblum (Morgan).

The couple at the center of Le Week-End has been married for years, are approaching retirement and their so called Golden Years, and yet are pretty much miserable when the film opens – and remain so for much of the runtime of the film. It opens with the two of them on the train from London, to Paris, with Nick (Jim Broadbent) going over all the plans he made for the weekend, and Meg (Lindsay Duncan) reading a book and ignoring him. Like many “old married” couples they bicker – but unlike the old married couples who bicker in most movies, when these two bicker, they do it to hurt. He is hoping for sex on the weekend, but he doesn’t do that cause any favors by telling her that for years now her vagina has been like a “closed book”. Not wanting to be outdone, Meg confesses to Nick that she has considered leaving him.

Yet, strangely, as cruel as these two can be to each other when they are alone, they do seem to work well as a team out in public – whether its pulling off a dine and dash, arguing with a cabbie or at a dinner party thrown by an old friend of Nick’s when Nick finally confesses the depths of the pair’s financial troubles. He’s about to be forced into early retirement from his job as a philosophy professor because of one inappropriate comment too many to female and minority students (the latest was telling a woman from African if she spent as much time studying as she did on her hair, she may be able to leave her background behind). This means that Meg will not be able to retire like she wants to. They’ve blown part of their savings on their grown son – who refuses to work - and his family – and still he wants to move back home one more time.

In short, this is a movie about an older couple who have been together for decades who both love, and kind of hate each other. They’ve grown bored and complacent. He’s boring – he hopes to have time over the weekend trip to Paris where they’re going to celebrate their wedding anniversary, to discuss the tiles in their new bathroom. She sees herself as more free spirited than him – although her idea of being free spirited means spending a lot of money on fancy hotels and restaurants they cannot afford and will only serve to put them deeper in debt.

And therein laid the problem for me with the movie – it’s a rather dull and miserable experience about two rather dull and miserable people. To be sure, both Broadbent – and especially Duncan – are great in their roles, giving us a real feeling of the decades spent together, and how comforting it is to sink back into their youth – after she is particularly cruel to him one time, Nick puts on his headphones and sings along to ‘60s Bob Dylan, the ending specifically references Godard’s Band a Parte, which had been referenced throughout the film as well by director Roger Michell – who takes some of his cues for 1960s Godard. The screenplay by Hanif Kureishi, who has collaborated with Michell several times – best of all in The Mother, about an older woman having an affair with a younger man – does a good job of sketching this longtime marriage in all of its love and hatred. What the screenplay really fails to do is make us care about these characters. It’s not just that neither is all that likable – although neither is, and when the movie finally adds another major character, it’s Jeff Goldblum at his Jeff Goldblumiest, who plays an even more unlikable character. It’s that I’m not quite sure the movie gets at anything very deep in its story. Some have said that this could be the final – or at least a later – chapter in the Richard Linklater-Ethan Hawke-Julie Delphy trilogy about Jesse and Celine – but those movies are more grounded in reality, more dreamily romantic when they want to be, and much harsher and more honest in the latest chapter. In short, they’re quite simply better. Le Week-End is not in any way a bad movie – the performances are great. And I’m adding it to a growing list of movies to revisit in about 30 years because maybe I’ll appreciate it more when I am the characters age instead of being in my early 30s. But for now, I didn’t see much point in spending this much time with Nick and Meg.

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