DVD Review: Le Week-End

STUDIO: Music Box | DIRECTOR: Roger Michell | CAST: Jim Broadbent, Lindsay Duncan, Jeff Goldblum, Olly Alexander, Judith Davis
BLU-RAY & DVD RELEASE DATE: 7/8/2014 | PRICE: DVD $29.95, Blu-ray $34.95
BONUSES: commentary, featurette, How to dance ‘The Madison’ tutorial video, illustration gallery
SPECS: R | 93 min. | Comedy drama | 2.35:1 widescreen | DTS-HD Master Audio/Dolby Digital 5.1 | English and French subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Two English intellectuals celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary in Paris, where their ongoing marital issues come to a head in a series of brutally frank, but witty, discussions in Le Week-End.

With a synopsis like that, Le Week­-End could have been painfully droll. Instead, Roger Michell (Notting Hill, Venus) serves up a subtle treat full of thoughtful conversation as it slowly paints a portrait of the all­-too­-familiar truth about modern monogamy: nowhere near as advertised, but arguably worth it. Jim Broadbent (The Iron Lady) and Lindsay Duncan (About Time) carry the film almost single­-handedly as Nick and Meg, an aging couple smart enough to recognize their issues, but a little too old to begin the marriage counseling.

Le Week-End movie scene

Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan head to Paris for Le Week-End.

As the pair gallivants across the beautiful backdrop of Paris, the film uses their precarious relationship to comment on such topics as the failed Baby Boomer generation (for which they clearly serve as poster children) and the eternally unsolvable rift between women and men. This is where Hanif Kureishi’s (Venus) script shines, as it deftly weaves social commentary and character portraits into a seamless, naturalistic whole, maintaining a perfect balance between getting too didactic and too meandering. The new generation gap between former Sixties radicals and their millennial descendants, society’s crumbling safety net for our soon-­to­-be elderly, sex for the Viagra set—Kureishi covers a lot of ground with his underplayed exchanges. This is the guy who penned such great Eighties New Wave classics as My Beautiful Launderette and Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, which places Le Week­-End firmly within a cinematic legacy. Kureishi’s latest characters are older, questionably wiser, but certainly no less edgy.

As great as the screenplay is, it’s Duncan and Broadbent who bring it to life—Nick and Meg’s relationship, while troubled, still fizzes with enough chemistry that one never doubts why these two got together. For every accusation and shortcoming, there’s a moment of sweetness and levity, whether it’s the couple’s impromptu dine-­and­-dash or their confrontations with snobby hotel management. The familiar glances, the conversational playfulness… they might not be lovers anymore, but they’re definitely still friends, even if the battle scars run deep.

The only time the film stumbles a little is towards the end, when an incredibly vain old college buddy (played masterfully by Morning Glory‘s Jeff Goldblum) bumps into Nick and invites them to a fancy dinner party where he can show his twenty-­something wife off to all his refined and successful friends. It’s a wonderful shift of pace, pulling our couple out of their comfortably English bubble and into this gregarious American’s loud, superficial world. Unfortunately, the script slips into watered­ down Edward Albee clichés as Nick and Meg’s issues air out publicly over dinner. It’s a cheap way out of a narrative corner, but the sure­-handed directing and performances keep it afloat.

Somehow, this potentially bleak storyline ends up with a smile that doesn’t feel pasted­ on, finishing with a memorable homage to Godard’s A Band Apart. In a lesser director’s hands the whole thing would have felt trite, but Michell pulls it off with humility, and it somehow works as a sendoff to both our little drama and an entire generation, as if to say “here we are again, right where we started. We’ve messed a lot of things up, but we still know how to have fun.”

An enjoyable “making of” featurette, a director’s commentary track (providing insight into the organic working relationship between the cast and crew), and an odd but fun “How to Dance the Madison” short provide the DVD release with some colorful, and potentially handy, extras.

 

 

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About Memo

Memo Salazar attempts many things and accomplishes few. His big three are making films, music, and comics, but he'll throw photography, graphic design and film criticism into the ring for good measure. He'll even make you a hand-painted t-shirt if you ask nicely. You can track his activity here when there's nothing else to do at work.