"Le Weekend" **** (out of ****)
Sadly while everyone will go see "Divergent" (2014) this weekend, Roger Michell, of "Notting Hill" (1999) and "Morning Glory" (2010) fame, released his latest film "Le Week-end" (2014) which will get lost in the shuffle. A shame. It is one of the year's best films.
"Le Week-end" is a charming British comedy/drama starring Jim Broadbent, Lindsay Duncan and Jeff Goldblum. It continues the collaboration between Michell and screenwriter Hanif Kureishi. Previously the two worked on "Venus" (2006) with Peter O' Toole and "Mother" (2003), a very bold film, whose secrets I will not reveal.
Broadbent and Duncan play a married couple that have been together for 30 years. Celebrating their anniversary they go to Paris for the weekend. Any couple that has ever spent a weekend together will tell you, by the end of the experience you will learn a lot about each other. You may even learn things about each other neither one of you wanted to know. And so it is in "Le Week-end". The couple's bond will be tested. The movie covers a wide range of themes including love, death, age and commitment. These characters look back on their life and wonder, where has it all gone? What has their lives amounted to?
What makes "Le Week-end" such a treasure to behold is Kureishi's screenplay. It brims with life. This is a warm, human comedy which hits on universal truths. The dialogue rings true. The audience is able to relate to these characters. Their situation is believable. We know these characters. They are our parents, grandparents, maybe we even see ourselves in them. It is Kureishi and Michell's ability to flesh these characters out that makes the movie magical.
Broadbent and Duncan have great chemistry between. For as good as the screenplay and Michell's direction may be, credit must be given to the actors as well. Their interpretation of their characters is a driving force behind the success of the movie. Their every gesture, speech pattern seems well placed. They have become these people. Their acting has an almost naturalistic quality to it, especially Broadbent (who is an old Mike Leigh regular. Leigh's film have an improvised quality to them). Is he even acting? Did they just place the camera on him?
In the opening moments of "Le Week-end" we see Nick (Broadbent) and Meg (Duncan) on a train headed for Paris. They seem like a "comfortable" couple. Old and set in their ways. Nick frequently forgets where he has placed things and Meg constantly reminds him. They quarrel. Make snide remarks toward each other. But we sense Nick loves Meg. Meg on the other hand seems a bit difficult to read. She doesn't seem as content with her life as Nick. In fact throughout the movie you keep expecting one of them to say the marriage is over. They want a divorce. Naturally, I won't reveal if that happens. But soon the movie touches on, what keeps two people together? How do you "put up" with another person?
On this weekend getaway they run into an old friend of Nick's, someone who he went to Cambridge with, an American, Morgan (Jeff Goldblum). Morgan, now divorced, has moved to Paris, where he has remarried. He is living with his much younger wife and they are expecting a child. He is a famous author, and in honor of his new book, is having a party which he invites Nick and Meg to. The party will be the turning point. The moment when the couple will be faced with the truth. By the end of the evening, Nick and Meg will know where they stand with each other.
At the party there is flirtation and drinking and we sense Morgan is a bit of an old charmer himself, always remarking on Meg's beauty. Accusations are hurled and midnight trysts are promised. But what will it all lead to? Though don't think however this is a bedroom sex farce. There is no low brow humor. These are smart, educated people. They don't resort to such language.
Finally another star of the movie is Paris herself. Not since Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris" (2011) has the city looked more beautiful. It is a prominent part of the movie. Paris is suppose to be the city of love and romance. Will the charms of Parisian life rub off on Nick and Meg? Will this enchanting city make them fall in love all over again?
"Le Week-end" has opened to much critical acclaim and was nominated for several British Independent Film Awards, including best film. Lindsay Duncan won a best actress award and Broadbent and Goldblum were both nominated in the best actor and supporting actor categories.
This is a charming, sweet, funny movie which I hope audiences find during its theatrical run. This is one of the year's best films.