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23 out of 36 people found the following review useful:

Mumblecore with Ken and Barbie

8/10
Author: Chris Knipp from Berkeley, California
14 October 2008

The name itself of this school of film-making, "mumblecore," is so despised, the Voice writer, Nick Pinkerton, refused to use it in reviewing this movie and substituted "postgraduate naturalism." That, too, is a put-down ; it suggests mature work is yet to come. But I think maybe we should take this stuff on its own merits and give it credit for being expressive and representative and something new and different, even if it pales in comparison to great cinema. What doesn't? Yes, it's youthful, and in some ways unambitious. Isn't that an expression of the zeitgeist? It is valid in its own way and this is a good example of it, unlike others.

'Night and Weekends' purports to depict in a naturalistic but highly selective style a year and a half of the long-distance relationship of a semi-fictional 20-something couple. They are James and Mattie, and they are played by the filmmakers, Joe Swanberg and Greta Gerwig, respectively.

Reading reviews of this movie when you're wondering if you want to see it can be horrifying. Some of the notices are favorable and even affectionate, but the many that aren't are absolutely excoriating. One enters the auditorium with grave doubts. But in hindsight it's almost encouraging the way the critics attack the protagonists as people, finding them jejune, self-absorbed, uninteresting, etc. Whether that means Swanberg and Gerwig have put it across--or only that nobody believes in the fiction that they're being anyone but just themselves--may not even mater. But such reactions show how difficult it is for some to judge such a film. 'Nights and Weekends' is neither documentary nor fiction, nor yet quite a clever blending of the two. There's hardly much detachment when two filmmakers are shooting themselves up close almost exclusively in relation to each other. They're guilty of intimacy, even if it's staged. They're guilty of taking a long look at themselves, even though they scarcely know who they are. But where this movie succeeds is in evanescent moments of raw, scarcely defined feeling.

Some of the other films of this school feature more numerous casts of less good-looking people and more talk. Swanberg and Gerwig are a presentable couple, depicted in bright color with good lighting. In this not unpleasant but not very atmospheric format the movie shows their out of town sojourns, sex, posing in mirrors, experimentation with a pay photo booth--and their conversations, which, judged by literary standards appear to involve a range of ideas from A to B and a 200-word vocabulary. He's tall, solid, puckish, chin-whiskered; she's a cute, insecure bottle blond with a nice smile and tons of self-absorption to go with her occupation: writer. Together, with minimal narrative and limited dialogue, their surfaces depict them as a life-size Ken and Barbie who talk like young 21st century white middle class Americans. He has designed some kind of video game software that's depicted as having a good future.

Clearly Swanberg and Gerwig have something going on that's not acting. They do a lot of kissing; his is particularly sweet and spontaneous. And they do some screwing, which is more spontaneous than erotic. But they've made a movie out of this. It's not "them." Is the pouting and fighting? Are the filmmakers a real couple--or former couple? Is the real couple's relationship ending, or is this a foreshadowing of its ending, a 'what if'? But the encounters aren't intense enough to make one worry one way or the other. And that's okay, because what one gets is contemporary relationship texture. The feel of the everyday.

How "real" and how invented the scenes are is unknowable. The movie opens with apparently successful sex when she arrives in Chicago (they strip each other fast on the floor; he's visibly aroused). At the end they're in his hotel room in Manhattan where he's come for some kind of job thing and the sex fizzles. Scenes fade to voice-over, cut to slip forward in time to a new place and time and obviously the cutting governs the audience's sense of the relationship and the people.

Critics have found this effort notably unworthy of comparison with Cassavetes. But Cassavetes' naturalistic, improvised classics, with their much more elaborate narratives and back-stories and their much more self-conscious and actor-y performances, are something entirely different anyway. 'Nights and Weekends' has qualities other films don't have. But they also have none of the poetry and cinema allusion of the Nouvelle Vague, nor the control and elegance of true minimalism: this time cutting doesn't mean calculation, structure, hardly even editing, though it does mean controlling what we get to see of the couple's interactions.

And maybe what they all mean is this:

The relationship won't last. As Mattie says in one speech, they have to do something. She doesn't say it, but one of them must move. Since he has business in New York, that might be Joe. But since things go awkwardly on their last, New York, meeting, maybe it's just going to end. The ending leaves us hanging. It's just another raw cut. No poetry, no finality, just a few tears.

Yet some viewers when I attended were audibly very pleased and found much of the happenings on screen funny and true.

My first reaction with mumblecore is a sigh of relief--it's not so bad; it could have been worse. Cassavetes' films, however much richer, can be tedious and painful watching and nothing seems more theatrical than actors being naturalistic. Swanberg and Gerwig are scarcely actors. They're just two people good at ignoring the camera even when it's right in their faces. They're more like 'models,' which is what porn filmmakers call their actors. Reservations and condescension aside, though, this movie conveys some of the most raw and essential aspects of living in a long-distance relationship that I've ever seen. Ken and Barbie are an Everyman and Everywoman for this painful and and frustrating and sometimes beautiful experience.

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21 out of 33 people found the following review useful:

Infantilism Takes Over

3/10
Author: rddj05 from United States
11 October 2008

Though Swanberg's previous film "LOL", was not the most visually stunning, it was creative, and I found it quite interesting simply because it had something to say about how we relate to one another in this day and age. This film seems to want to say something as well, but the immature, whiny, uninteresting way the characters say it, has started to become a staple of the Mumblecore movement (to see the most blatant example of this, see "The Puffy Chair"...actually, don't).

The majority of these films been festival darlings and been fairly well-received by critics. This is mostly due to the fact that many of the films have been able to strip away the traditional Hollywood artifice from their characters and allow them to exhibit some honest behavior, no matter how awkward. However, you get the sense that these middle-class, white, 20-somethings need something to fill their time besides thoughts of their own neuroses and navel-gazing.

The allure of these films for many viewers is that the people on screen are "just like me", and the situations are "just like what happened to me yesterday". This could be interesting if only there were actually something at stake.

The NY Times review summed it up better than I can, when it stated, "The problem with the movie is that James and Mattie exhibit little but shallow, infantile neurosis, with next to no hint of a complex — or even legible — inner life."

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33 out of 58 people found the following review useful:

Not For Me

2/10
Author: bertseymour7 from United States
21 July 2008

I will try not to be overly critical here because I have been somewhat harsh on the mumblecore movement and while this movie is not something I enjoyed I did not find it as sloppy as some of the previous mumblecore work.

This film was showing at south by southwest in austin, after it showed some people were really into it while others hated it. I was impartial, having seen the previous mumblecore work I knew what to anticipate. Rambling scenes, mumbling, nudity for the sake of shock and attention, whiney pathetic lead characters.

I hate to tell people what to think, and I can say a few people seemed to find it interesting. I can say what I thought though, their was basically no plot, the whole story revolves around two characters, and if you find whiney pathetic characters annoying then you are in trouble.

I have a theory that after seeing so much garbage that looked the same at SXSW people were merely impressed because they saw a different looking piece of garbage, and they said, well is that still garbage, it looks different. The thing is, garbage comes in all shapes and sizes.

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7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

review from The West Georgian

9/10
Author: Grant Wallace (gwallac2@gmail.com) from Carrollton, GA
17 October 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Mumblecore is an American independent film movement of the early 21st characterized by low-budget production, focus on personal relationships between twenty-somethings, improvised scripts, and non-professional actors. I thought I would start my review off this week with a kind of warning label. I am sure that this genre of film is something only half of all viewers find enjoyable.

Nights and Weekends is the newest in the genre due to the lack of microphones which make the actors sounds like their mumbling at times. Although a relatively new field of film-making, the basis for this style hasn't changed.

With Nights and Weekends, staples to the genre Joe Swanberg (LOL, Quiet City) and Greta Gerwig (Hannah Takes the Stairs, Baghead) return for a film that revolves solely around these two characters building and breaking apart in a timeless tale of breakups and makeups.

In previous films of theirs, the two have never tried a relationship story where at least 90% of the film is shot only on them. The film was shot in Chicago and New York, however in a faux-ironic way; the viewer only gets to see these beautiful cities for a few minutes as the majority is filmed in either apartments or hotels. I'm sure they did this technique on purpose to make the story seem more genuine.

As you can probably guess, such low-budget idealism doesn't transcend well to the masses, but luckily there is a thriving subculture out there that believes you don't need a bunch of special effects and money to make a substantial and interesting movie.

For instance, what better medium can you think of to show the hardest of all concepts, love. Real people having real conversations about real problems. It almost feels like watching reality TV, except the sincerity is tenfold and the people are more down-to-earth.

The title stems from the long distance relationship dilemma of only being able to seeing your significant other on nights or weekends. It's a sad but true concept because these situations can be extremely passionate but also heartbreaking. The passion and sadness are amplified to the extreme, however instead of coming off forced or unnatural, I felt the truest sense of longing and hope for the two characters.

I felt a real sense of confusion, which, under any other circumstance I would find annoying and immediately turned off. However, this confusion only seemed to keep my curiosity on the brim as I increasingly wanted to see exactly what was going to happen. Are we friends or more? Do I want to be friends or something more? These are real questions that everyone has asked at some point in their lives. When put into a film like this, it feels as if you're vicariously living through the characters in some scenes.

Like I've said, many people will lose interest immediately within the first ten minutes simply because you're only going to see and hear dialogue for the next hour and a half but, for those of us who can see this for what it is - happiness in the saddest form possible - N&W comes highly recommended from me.

Nights and Weekends can be found on Netflix.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Leads to nowhere

4/10
Author: CaligulaAzrael from Warsaw, Poland
16 November 2011

This is first mumblecore I've seen and I must say that I don't know why some people are so excited about it. Swanberg's movie is just a compilation of less or more boring scenes in which director and his star, Great Gerwig are talking, laying in bed, trying to make love and so on, so on. It's not that the whole thing is bad - it just leads to nowhere. There is no plot, there is no hidden message. The acting is quite good, especially Gerwig is doing nice job in here - she's very natural and has her own charm. Also photography and editing are better than I expected, being aware of that the film is practically non-budget. So - technically work is made unobjectionable, but the rest - the plot, tension, action - it just doesn't exist in this one. Maybe for few viewers it's kind of art. Not for me.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Proves that when examining a relationship, keeping it simple, concise, and honest is the best and most meaningful approach.

10/10
Author: Steve Pulaski from United States
25 July 2013

If I could have one relationship with a woman in my life be akin to the one Joe Swanberg's character possesses with Greta Gerwig's in Nights and Weekends, I'd die with a large sense of accomplishment. This relationship, rather romantic or very personal, is the kind everyone should experience one in their life, especially with someone of the opposite sex. The relationship with someone not related to you, whom you could talk openly with, share secrets, and feel downright in-place when you talk to them. That feeling of connection may have ironically been dwindled down to a stunning rarity with the popularity of smartphones and the internet, but its significance remains imperative to ones' life and well-being.

Nights and Weekends - Joe Swanberg's fourth directorial effort and Greta Gerwig's first - is, in short, a small masterpiece; a satisfying, deeply personal mumblecore movie that exercises its right to be both meaningful and significant in the world of relationships and long-distance dating because of its realistic portrayal of characters in that current situation. It centers around the lives of James and Mattie (Swanberg and Gerwig, respectively), a couple who has desperately tried to make their relationship work despite their long-distances from each other. He lives in Chicago, while she lives in New York.

The first half of the picture is devoted to them hanging out in James' town of Chicago, hanging around the city, but mostly engaging conversations during cuddle-time. These scenes allow for a wonderful, full-flesh intimacy session to take place amongst the characters. These are the kind of conversations I live for, in film and in real life. The honesty, poignancy, and often realism that comes out in these sessions will likely resonate with married couples, particularly those who have had to go the extra mile to make it work, whether it be locational, racial, or ideological boundaries.

The second half takes place in Mattie's town of New York City, one year later. Production of the film was also halted for a year to give the actors the feeling of jumping into the characters one year later; a wise directorial move if you ask me. This is where we, and the characters, begin to question the viability of their relationship. They're not really meeting new people, or attempting to cheat on one another. They are just exhausted at their efforts of trying to make things work and perhaps it's time to shift from being in a committed relationship to being friends; the kind of people who talk about their relationships and are not in one together.

But how do you go about doing that when you've been in a relationship for so long? How do you realistically say 'enough is enough' and you want to experiment with other priorities? When James and Mattie are awkwardly taking pictures at a photography place - perhaps out of predictable relationship convention as they both seem equally unmoved about the process - you can see they just don't seem to care how they look or behave around one another. It's a soul-crushing scene that makes the warmest heart turn cold.

Joe Swanberg has made and been involved with almost twenty films over the course of seven years. Because of his stunning, prolific filmmaking behavior, you wouldn't think he allows himself much time to mature, look over what he did well and what he tripped up on in his previous films. However, Swanberg is one of the youngest, most mature directors I've yet to see in film. His sense of awareness on human cultures, as far as dating, relationships, and communications go are mostly accurate and believable. The ways he depicts online conversation and sex are rooted in believability and awkwardness, kind of like they are in real life. Of course he will make missteps in his career; it comes with the territory of being prolific and not going long-periods of time putting the camera down. At this point, especially after Nights and Weekends, I don't want Swanberg to break; his touching, naturalistic look on society and relationships through the lens of independent filmmaking is something we need in cinema, and the zealous way he films and releases his movies is something of a breakneck achievement in the field.

Nights and Weekends contains brutal honesty about marriage, dating, and the hardships that come with the feel. It needs to be viewed by young adolescents who are either rushing into relationships, are desperate to be in one, or simply want to see the glimpse inside the world of a practical relationship. Swanberg and Gerwig conduct the film maturely, and their acting makes the relationship only more viable for the entire picture. The film, yet again, proves that when examining a relationship, keeping it simple, concise, and honest is the best and most meaningful approach.

Starring and directed by: Joe Swanberg and Greta Gerwig.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Painful-to-sit-through peep into mismatched couple's lives

Author: evening1 from United States
1 October 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The founding fathers divided government into three branches with checks and balances. This is where Greta Gerwig and Joe Swanberg made their big mistake. They thought they could do it all on their own -- writing, directing, and acting -- with no significant input from others. Maybe that works for a home movie, but this is something they expected people to pay for!

With no outsider in a position to say, "Wait, hold on, do you think we could try this another way?" this megalomaniacal couple have produced an embarrassingly vapid flight into unrestrained narcissism.

Ellen DeGeneris-lookalike Mattie is depressed. Her giggling boyfriend James is shallow. One tolerates this slice-of-life film out of morbid curiosity: Just how is this insipid couple going to fill a whole hour and a half of screen time?

We see them doing nothing of any significance together, except perhaps visiting James's brother and his young family. Otherwise James and Mattie have sex on a clothes-strewn floor, then eat on a floor, and go not once but twice to get their pictures taken. (Who the hell cares?) For a change of pace, we get to join Mattie as she sits on the john and gives her butt a swipe. So much for imaginative plotting.

Nor is the characterization any good. Mattie seems severely depressed, with no mature outlet for expressing her rage. James ignores this elephant in the room and often seems to force his laughter, as if perhaps to convince himself he's having fun in this relationship. And forget the script quality -- there is no memorable dialogue here.

This supremely bored couple actually talks of having a child together. God help us if they think an innocent baby will inject some meaning into their drivel-filled universe.

This couple weeps when it is time to part, but the audience may experience tears of joy.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Watch it for Gretwig

6/10
Author: raj pillai from United Kingdom
12 August 2012

The film is shot like a home made video, characters very realistic . The lead characters maintain a long distance relationship or try to , the film does not try to spice up moments . But there is one thing I would like to know.Is Joe Swanberg made to act bad as the script or is he a bad actor?, have not seen any of his films. If the first is true, as in the script defines his acting , then the film is plot less because a girl like Greta would not be thinking twice about holding a relationship with that character, even from 10 miles apart.Greta is vulnerable, with mood swings portrayed brilliantly as she always does, wonder the intimate scenes cold have been more passionate as they meet only after a while each time.

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3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

astute, hard and truthful romantic dramedy

8/10
Author: MisterWhiplash from United States
21 September 2011

Nights and Weekends - I was surprised by how much I liked this one. in fact it may be one of the better mumblecore movies I've seen. That doesn't mean it's anything 'great' but as far as slice of life films go it really makes a valiant and honest attempt to just show a couple as they are. The whole long-distance relationship angle makes the story kind of doomed from the get-go, or at least once one sees Mattie (Gerwig) get bitchy at James (Swanberg) over how much effort has to be put in to going from NY to Chicago and back again just to have a relationship. But what I liked this time, unlike, say, Swanberg's previous film Hannah Takes the Stairs is that there is also effort to tell a story, if only evidenced by the whole 'cutting ahead to one-year-later', and showing some set-up and payoff with a couple of things and items like a lion.

The two actors are natural, and why not? I have to think they were close enough to bare themselves to themselves (physically and mentally, mostly physically), and it works for the benefit of the naturalism. A few scenes get bogged down so much in minutae that you want things to move on, but what I liked here was that, for me at least, the stripping to the little moments made their relationship palpable, and cute, and kind of sad all at the same time. When we see Gerwig cry, we know the tears are genuine, as is Swanberg's awkwardness at keeping the relationship going, such as when he has a photo shoot and asks her to come.

Why to watch it? Simply put, it's a romantic dramedy for those looking for a solid alternative to pap and crap from Hollywood. It's so decidedly un-Hollywood it does come close to the other direction of being too precious. But only close, not all the way. It's got two actors completely at ease and open to taking their characters totally where they need to go without any BS, and as directors they keep things moving so it's never *too* boring. Some may disagree, and that's well and good, since it is still firmly in the 'mumblecore' vein. At the right moment in time, Nights and Weekends connected with me, and hopefully it may with a few others.

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