Le Week-End (2013) / Drama-Comedy
MPAA Rated: R for language and some sexual content
Running Time: 93 min.
Cast: Jim Broadbent, Lindsay Duncan, Jeff Goldblum, Judith Davis, Olly Alexander
Director: Roger Michell
Screenplay: Hanif Kureishi
Review published February 27, 2014
Le Week-End relates a story about a British husband, Nick (Broadbent, Closed Circuit), and wife, Meg (Duncan, About Time), who have decided to treat themselves to a weekend in Paris to celebrate their 30th anniversary. Try as they might to have a good time, they find themselves persistently getting on one another's nerves, to the point where they begin to question whether or not they might be better off alone.
After seeing the bitterly bickering couple in Before Midnight in all of its ugly glory, perhaps seeing a similar bickering longterm married couple in Le Week-End might seem a bit anticlimactic. Roger Michell's take doesn't play as much for realism as the Richard Linklater work (in fact, his original intention for the film was that it be screened in black-&-white), but he does draw out excellent performances from two superb character actors in Broadbent and Duncan, who seem very much like a couple who've grown weary of having to deal with all of their partner's many mannerisims and annoying idiosyncracies, yet they still have such love for one another, it's hard to let the other go to explore other means of happiness.
Perhaps it is my male perspective, as well as the fact that the film is written and directed by men, but Nick comes off as the more sympathetic of the two, as he seems to try to bring some spark back into their lives, or, at the very least, some laughter. He has no intention of not ever being together, and we sympathize with his every attempt to stitch up their differences. Meanwhile, Meg is the one who is wondering whether she might be able to find some excitement by exploring new adventures with someone else, and the fact that she has no problem telling Nick to his face, on their 30th anniversary no less, makes it feel like an agonizing rejection no one should ever have to endure in their lifetime. She wants to experience the best in life, but Nick is very cautious, and becomes, to her, like a dead weight she has to expend a great deal of energy on to get him to loosen up and let his concerns go.
Jeff Goldblum (Man of the Year) has a small role as Morgan, Nick's old colleague from when he went to Cambridge, who invites the two to a party in his apartment. Morgan contrasts Nick's life by showing how he is much happier now that he is out of his stale marriage. Nick, nonetheless, sticks to his guns that he is happier in the misery of being with Meg, rather than lose her and face the rest of his life alone. The erudite and witty script by Hanif Kureishi, who collaborated with director Michell (Hyde Park on Hudson, Enduring Love) on The Mother and Venus, is written with a good deal of basic truths that those in their own long-term relationships will identify with. Fans of the Jean-Luc Godard's classic film, Band of Outsiders, will also love the recurring homage to a famous scene, and also the title of this film being the same as one he did in 1967.
Le Week-End is an astute look at love/hate relationship dynamics from people who've grown to know each other so well that their conversations twist and turn, as they alternately build up and tear down each other. It's not always pretty, but there is a certain catharsis to be had in seeing personal issues get hashed out, and even some tender moments in between. Even if the subject matter doesn't exactly scream out "entertainment", the film definitely merits attention for two great performances at the core.
©2014 Vince Leo