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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
How this film has become such catnip to critics is beyond me.
The premise- that an experienced lecturer should be forced to resign over telling a girl to spend more time on her studies than her hair is ludicrous, however politically correct an institution might have become.
The interaction between the two leads is simply not credible. Meg, Nick's wife tells him over lunch that he is "too cautious". One might make such an observation within the first 5 years of a relationship, but after 30 years of marriage?
The bickering, intended to be funny, is neither funny, nor even bickering. To bicker is to good- naturedly argue about stuff which is essentially inconsequential. At various times Meg threatens to leave Nick, and threatens to go off with another man there and then, taunting Nick's insecurity. After exchanging wounding and generalised criticisms of each other, the viewer is expected to believe that within 5 minutes the couple can be kissing passionately.
This film is supposed to be a comedy. It is not funny. Nor does it work as drama, save potentially in the imaginations of a small tranche of pretentious academics, and some film critics, to whom this film may say something to them of their lives.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
We went to Le Weekend not sure what to expect but had a vague idea it would be a reasonably light-hearted jaunt across Paris with a middle-aged couple enjoying a 30th wedding anniversary and trying to re-kindle their honeymoon adventures. The small cinema we visited was fairly full with the same age viewers (50-70) who undoubtedly expected the same. What we got - and what is stuck dreadfully in my mind - is the vision of Jim Broadbent crawling across the carpet asking Lindsay Duncan if he can sniff her crutch. Oh god, just writing that has brought up the scene like a lump of sick in the mouth. The character of Meg (Lindsay Duncan) is one of a complaining harridan who goes off in a huff if she doesn't get her own way although we learn later that Nick (Jim Broadbent) had had an affair some years before which has obviously soured their relationship. There is some kind of nonsensical denouement which revolves around the couple's sudden financial largesse but this is a film that doesn't travel well beyond the confines of the academic chatterati who will love it, darling. For the rest of we plebs, it seemed a load of pretentious drivel.
College lecturer Nick and schoolteacher Meg (Jim Broadbent and Lindsay
Duncan) take the TGV to Paris for their 30th wedding anniversary. He
still dotes on her, but she's had the seven-year-itch for at least 23
years. She insists on moving to a more ritzy hotel and makes it plain
she'd like to move on to a more ritzy husband. They run into an old
college chum of Nick's (Jeff Goldblum) who's got a new young wife. A
party at his apartment confirms Meg in her feeling that life has short-
This sour take on the middle-aged romcom is scripted by Hanif Kureishi in the style of Woody Allen. It has no more substance than a 30-minute TV sitcom - a cross between AS TIME GOES BY and ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVE - which is stretched a bit thin at 93 minutes. The best scene involves a restaurant bill they can't afford, but the joke falls flat when it's repeated in the hotel. Jeff Goldblum phones in another variant on his usual rich rogue persona. Jim Broadbent's Nick is a solid if predictable take on Victor Meldrew. Lindsay Duncan's Meg is the best thing in the movie, a partially tamed shrew who thinks - wrongly - that she could have, should have, done better. Married couples - maybe even unmarried couples - may find this film leaves a bitter taste; I think it's meant to.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It is a good idea for a movie, and it starts promisingly. We all know
the experience of a weekend trip that should be special but the nature
of the relationship intrudes.
The actors are terrific. Lindsay Duncan is gorgeous. Jim Broadbent is like most middle aged men, you wonder why any woman would find them attractive. And Jeff Goldblum adds a bit of glamour.
The trouble is that, like most marriages, it is indeed private but boring. We don't really want to hear their little arguments, their failings, their history. We just want to know what is going to happen, and the answer is, not much. Anything would do, but it doesn't.
It should have been a TV drama, not a full length movie.
To rekindle the spark in their marriage, an older man takes his wife to
the most romantic city in the world for a whirlwind weekend of food and
courtship. It seems the perfect premise for a charming if slightly
quaint romantic comedy, focused on people who seldom get to take centre
stage in Hollywood. Certainly, its marketing campaign has focused on
the film's sharp, giddy bursts of joy and emotion, suggesting that love
later in life is possible and even glorious. But, make no mistake about
it, Le Week-End is far from a sweet and simple exercise in wish-
fulfilment. In fact, this is a prickly, frequently painful look at a
relationship that works as much as it doesn't: a bond forged through
time, heartache and anger that could as easily be mistaken for love as
Nick (Jim Broadbent) and Meg (Lindsay Duncan) - a couple who have been married for decades - return to Paris, where they had their honeymoon. It soon becomes clear that Nick is desperately keen to make his marriage work again, even as his wife tries - sometimes with great determination, sometimes half-heartedly - to suggest that they go their separate ways. Their son is grown, you see, and there's nothing except years of knowing and being with each other to hold them together.
The film is at its finest when Nick and Meg walk the streets of Paris, their bickering and banter hinting at the rot that has set into their marriage. There is love between them, but not the kind that swells the heart with dreams of romance and magic. It's worn, and tattered, and quite possibly fading. They argue over their good-for-nothing son - Nick wants to take care of him, Meg thinks he should be independent - and Meg finds out that Nick is close to losing his job. They say hurtful things because, after long years of marriage, they know just what to say to really twist the knife. Le Week-End, at least in the beginning, is refreshingly free of sentiment, instead taking a long, hard look at the quiet, seemingly inconsequential tragedies that can eat away at a long relationship.
The character work is also quite wonderful. Neither Nick nor Meg is easily categorised or stuffed into a stereotype. When Nick meets his old college friend Morgan (Jeff Goldblum) in the streets, he's forced to confront the tiny disappointments that have made up his life. It adds depth to this portrait of a man whose eagerness to please is rooted in his abject terror of being alone. On her part, Meg can come across as almost brutally distant, someone who's withdrawn into herself to shake the feeling that something went quite badly wrong in the life she's leading.
Credit is due especially to Broadbent and Duncan, who fearlessly create characters and forge an intriguing chemistry that carry the film through its weaker moments. Broadbent is the tremulous heart of the film, and Duncan its gritty spirit. Together, they make the push and pull between Nick and Meg rich and sad at the same time: these are clearly people who could be better apart, but might not survive the separation.
Where Le Week-End falters is in its good but troubled script by Hanif Kureishi. His characters speak in dialogue that's razor-sharp, reeling off lines that are beautifully crafted but - because they occur with such regularity - can sometimes come off as fake or pretentious. It's jarring in a film that's otherwise so determined to be clear-eyed about romance and love in the real world. The film wraps up awkwardly as well, as if it's not quite sure where to leave this couple: to suggest a happy ending would be to undo its entire narrative trajectory, and yet there can be nothing simple about a pair of lives so tangled and complex.
Anyone hankering after a sweet, gentle romantic comedy set in the cobblestoned streets of Paris should look elsewhere - Le Week-End is dark and sometimes heartbreaking, suffused as it is with a love that's been broken down by loss, sacrifice and disappointment. It's funny, but often in a bittersweet way, and the relationship at its heart sometimes feels as if it might be beyond salvation. Perversely, that's what makes the film work - but it most certainly won't be to everyone's tastes.
Apparently a lot of viewers approached this film with expectations. I
had none. I didn't even know about the film prior to attending the
These characters sound and move like real humans. This is not a film about Paris, this is a film about people, aging, mistakes regrets, anger, secrets, affection, thorniness, misbehavior and loyalty.
I've read the complaints of other lay reviewers and it's apparent that they should make their own films, because it's doubtful anyone else's will live up to their expectations -- especially if critics like it.
They should also remember that it is remarkably difficult to pronounce something as snobbish without sounding intensely condescending.
For a film supposedly set in Paris this has no 'feel' of France. The train journey feels genuine - mostly because it probably is filmed on a train, (note 'a' train). The characters arrive at some place that is seen only in narrow view - are we in a cupboard at Elstree? Duncan and Broadbent exchange insults and variously sulk, resort to acts of minor violence and generally behave badly. Just like a couple of idiotic teenagers on their first unsupervised shopping trip to a regional shopping centre. We're supposed to believe that they are senior teachers with respectable professional lives. Really? There's a lot of expletives for the teacher type who is most likely not to resort to this shorthand-offensiveness. So, there they are, this middle aged couple behaving like a poor version of Steptoe and Son and having a crisis of who-can-win-the-game-of-passive-aggression most spectacularly, (i.e. how big an audience can they get for their little game). Broadbent and Duncan occasionally manage to bring slightly more to the storyline than in reality is there. Shame. This whole story could be better told in any number of ways.
The trailer hinted at a charming romp around Paris; reviews suggested
something darker. In reality it proved to be a very honest, challenging
film, which refused to pop love-in-marriage into a convenient
I can understand completely that it wasn't many people's cup of tea. Certainly not a cosy feel-good movie for the growing sixtysomething demographic that presumably ensured finance for the movie to be made. But it your relationship is resilient or you are single there is pleasure to be had in this grown-up story.
Yes, it was painful to watch at times, but delightful at others a bit like life. Yes you wanted to smack them both for being so... annoying. No, you probably wouldn't invite them round to dinner without a certain amount of sighing. But I defy you to work out, before the end, whether they themselves would work out before the end. And I trust it will make a star, at last, of the luminous Lindsey Duncan.
The premise of this piece should send a shudder into viewers. In fact
it is handled quite well given the nature of the material, which, as
some reviewers are aggrieved about, is not a bourgeois English
experience of utter predictability.
It breaks the stereotype in two ways. It's a bitter experience for the two leads after years of marriage and still finding they care for each other through the layers of boredom. That friction adds something interesting, not great, but not entirely stale. The leads carry it well.
It also poaches some ideas from Godard's "Band a part" (The Outsiders). Well, so did Tarantino, and more obviously, but this is quote as the ending sequence makes plain as the man characters do the Madison from that film of the nouvelle vague.
It's a baby boomer experience to never grow old and Lindsay Duncan as Anna Karina, or Jim Broadbent as Sami Frey make a jarring, though amusing, nod to another time; a time which Anglo-Saxon audiences return again in French cinema.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Nick (Jim Broadbent) and Meg (Lindsay Duncan) return to Paris to relive
their honeymoon 30 years on. Well, that's the idea, we're told, but
from the start it's pretty clear that she, at least, does not want to
be there. So they bicker a bit, engage in some highly dodgy sexual
bantering, and meet up by chance with one of Nick's old mates (Jeff
Goldblum). She is rather tempted to have a fling with one of the guests
at a party given by the latter, while Nick lapses into a kind of
resigned despair. But somehow they all manage to remain friends. Nick
and Meg even manage some jolly capers while escaping from a restaurant
without paying (except that they repeat the trick when leaving their
very expensive hotel, which gives the impression that the director ran
out of ideas and/or forgot that when you repeat a joke, the second time
it isn't funny - unless you're say, Tommy Cooper).
Paris looks pretty good and it's all quite entertaining. But as a drama it falls flat. I'm not a big fan of Jim Broadbent though he is OK here. But he and Lindsay Duncan are not exactly Burton and Taylor so Nick and Meg's relationship lacks any real bite. It's all a bit sad, a bit lacklustre, perhaps even a bit lazy - or should that be cynical and slapdash? La-la how the life goes on!
Worth a look on a wet afternoon when you've nothing better to do. But don't put yourself out to see it.
(Viewed at Screen 2, The Cornerhouse, Oxford Road, Manchester, UK on 24 October 2013)
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