The Golden Years, Sans Shine (Film Review: “Le Weekend”)

Don’t be fooled by the cheery poster or rom-com trailer for Le Weekend.  This is serious business, delivered with a sly smile all the same.

 

SnapShot Plot

From the opening musical notes – the lonely jazz horn met by the melancholy piano line – the tone is set for this nakedly honest yet wryly observed examination of a marriage at the crossroads, ironically set against the most romantic place on earth: Paris. Nick and Meg, a longtime married British couple of a certain age, come to Paris for an important anniversary. Their hope to rekindle the embers in their relationship is met with obstacles both external and (most intractably) internal as the city itself brings them face to face with each other in a fish-or-cut-bait, take-no-prisoners way. I cannot fathom any other actors who would surrender so completely to the thorny complexities of these two characters, than Lindsay Duncan and Jim Broadbent. From the moment we meet them on the train, Nick somewhat befuddled and imploring, Meg removed and absorbed in her book (The Elegance of the Hedgehog, a recent best-seller which appealed to the intellectual set in Europe), her instant annoyance at his mere presence offers us a keyhole glimpse into their dynamic . . . we immediately SEE these people.

 

As they explore the city, engaging in brutal yet, at times touching verbal confrontations alleviated by childish pranks, a chance meeting with an old Cambridge classmate (played so tongue-in-cheek by Jeff Goldblum) presents the setting for a tense, suspenseful and philosophical climax like only the French can achieve: Le Dinner Party.

“Are you expecting me to die?”

“Unfortunately I’m expecting you to live forever.”

Parting Shot

Le Weekend was directed by Roger Michell (most known for the classic, sweet confection, Notting Hill) from a screenplay by the venerable author, Hanif Kureishi (who also wrote My Beautiful Laundrette, for which he received an Academy Award nomination). If I had to give the elevator pitch for this movie, I’d have to say it’s when L’Amour meets Before Midnight with a detour into The Out-of-Towners, and if you’re just mean enough, throw in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf for a laugh.

There’s prickly and then there’s PRICKLY as only the British can do it. At times I felt like bitch-slapping Meg for being so harsh to Nick, and I wanted to wipe that smug pout of perpetual disappointment from her face, only to begin to understand it more and more as Nick’s brooding anxiety began to get under my skin, too. But then he’d reveal himself and reach out to her in the most vulnerable way and my irritation with his character would dissolve into sympathy. And just when you’re not sure you want to go down the rabbit hole with these two, their razor-sharp wit and humor keep you captivated. That, and the insipid perfection of Jeff Goldblum’s performance alone is worth the monthly subscription to Netflix, folks.

SideBar: In several scenes, Meg & Nick are either partly recreating or seeing reflections of the French New Wave Cinema, a nostalgic symbol of their youthful honeymoon years before in Paris. One movie, in particular, which we see reflected on their hotel room’s TV, is the 1964 classic film by Jean-Luc Godard , Bande à part, which foreshadows the ending of the film. In fact, Quentin Tarantino was so influenced by that film that he named his production company A Band Apart and it’s said that he modeled the dance sequence between Uma Thurman and John Travolta in Pulp Fiction after this one. Here’s the original scene in its entirety, featuring Claude Brasseur, Anna Karina, and the sexy Sami Frey. Norma’s Streaming Picks knows one very special French friend who will be delighted to check this out. I’m talking to you, Mme. Claudie!

 

Featured Image Courtesy of:  http://www.meg.ie/le-week-end/

YouTube Trailer Courtesy of:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vB6508I35Mo

YouTube Clip from Bande à part  Courtesy of:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1MKUJN7vUk

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