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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.
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.
*** 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.
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.
*** 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.
Don't expect a romantic comedy from this picture, it has traces of comedy, very short hints of romance, but it is more a sharp, although sometimes really funny, reflection on the difficulty of giving sparkle to a marriage, after 30 years of mutual endurance. There's still love between Meg and Nick, but with so many ups and downs, mainly from Meg's part, who once seems to want to leave her husband, and then is terrified when she does not see him in their bed. And then Nick, terrified of being deserted by her wife, and ready to enjoy every short minute she seems to be willing to love him. It is a movie about the difficulty of living together, mainly when we have to come to terms with the failures of our individual life, of the need to feel that we could individually start everything anew. So, the movie progresses or better drags itself along the cobbled streets of Paris, through the sharp, sometimes brutal bickering of this funny couple, which is not always easy for the viewer to endure, in particular when dialogues seem to be a little pretentious and to be proclaiming some universal truth about marriages and living together, thus sounding a little more didactic and philosophical than realistic. I think the last ten minutes of the movie give a final intense and authentic touch, which could have started or been emphasized earlier. However, I appreciated the effective chemistry of the two main actors, they are carefully devised as not to result stereotyped and their interpretations proved really deep and heartfelt.
*** 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.
Le Week-End (2013) is an English film directed by Roger Michell.
Lindsay Duncan plays Meg, married to Nick (Jim Broadbent). They've been
married for quite a while--probably 35 years or so. They aren't a happy
couple, and they decide to return to Paris for a weekend to try to
relive a time when they were happy.
The problem is that they don't like the hotel they can afford, and they can't afford the hotel they like. They don't like the restaurants they can afford, and they can't afford the restaurants they like. And . . . they don't appear to like each other very much either.
Nick was apparently very successful in college and graduate school. However, he has never fulfilled his early academic promise. At one point Meg tells someone, "I'm a teacher," but it wasn't clear to me what she taught, and at what level she taught it. And, more important, it wasn't clear that she derived any satisfaction from her work.
By coincidence, they meet Morgan (Jeff Goldblum), who lives in Paris. Morgan and Nick had been friends in graduate school. In fact, Morgan says that he considered Nick his mentor. However, unlike Nick, Morgan has had a fabulously successful academic career. He now has abundant funds, a new bestseller, and a young second wife who adores him. The contrast between Nick's life and Morgan's life is so obvious that it brings about revelations from Nick that are painful to hear.
I was prepared to enjoy this movie, but, ultimately, it didn't work for me. Jim Broadbent is a fine actor, as is Lindsay Duncan. But neither of them gave me much reason to care about them--as individuals, or as a couple. Having a meal in an expensive restaurant, and then sneaking out through the kitchen is supposed to be a charming exploit. I don't find it to be charming at all. In fact, I didn't find much that was charming about either of them. (Yes--Lindsay Duncan is very beautiful, and looks much younger than her actual age of 63. But that doesn't make her character charming.)
I kept waiting for the characters in the movie to come to some sort of resolution. However, that didn't happen. The film just dwindled away and then it ended. "Loved the concept," but the movie never delivered on what it promised. Too bad.
Usually when movies use Paris as a romantic backdrop, it's a young
couple who gets to occupy the foreground. Not so with "Le Week-End," a
tale of two aging tourists - he a professor of philosophy, she a
teacher - who've chosen to "celebrate" their 30th anniversary in (where
else? ) the City of Lights.
Like many couples who have been together for a long time, Nick and Meg Burroughs often seem to have more things that are driving them apart than bringing them together. Not only have they grown tired of each other's all-too-predictable habits and quirks, but Meg, in particular, feels that now, with the kids grown and gone, it may be time for the two of them to move on and to spend what little time they have left getting to know themselves as individuals rather than as a couple.
Because the screenplay by Hanif Kureishi is clearly focused on an older couple, the film captures the paradox that exists at the core of lasting romantic love: that the very same predictable patterns and dull routines that, over time, work to deaden love are also what enhance intimacy and bind us inexorably to one another over the long haul.
Though Meg and Nick are still clearly sexual beings, even that fact has caused some tension and division between them, namely in an affair Nick had awhile back and for which he is perpetually atoning. Yet, the script is smart enough to know that what is said in the heat of the moment is not always indicative of what is in the heart.
Much of the second half of the film takes place at a posh and pretentious dinner party thrown by an old college buddy of Nick's, an American author and intellectual played by Jeff Goldblum.
Director Roger Michell keeps the tone serious and intimate without becoming heavy-handed or preachy. He allows the characters to reveal their depth through conversation and the way they interact with the world and each other. He is aided immeasurably by the skilled and incisive performances of Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan, who make us truly believe that they are a couple who have grown both comfortable and complacent with one another over time. Above all, "Le Week-End" acknowledges that relationships are tricky and complex things and come with no pat or easy instructions to make them easier to navigate our way through.
After "Le Week-End," it may not be necessary for Richard Linklater to make another "Before " movie, after all. I think Kureishi and Michell might have done it already.
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