When Nick (Jim Broadbent) and Meg (Lindsay Duncan) married thirty years ago, their whole lives were ahead of them. Nick’s career in academia was just beginning. Their son was yet to be born. Their story had yet to be written, and life was full of promise. In Le Week-end, the couple is spending their wedding anniversary in Paris. What should be a celebration devolves into an exploration of disappointments and personal failures, the taking of an emotional inventory as the two contemplate how to spend the third act of their lives.
Nick is a romantic who believes that love conquers all and a failing relationship just needs more effort. Meg considers herself a realist, but in practice, she is more of a pessimist. She dwells on the road not taken and projects her disappointments onto Nick. If he were more successful, if they had more money, if he were more of a man, then her life would be richer and full of meaning. In their interactions, Nick seems clueless, and Meg is icy to the point of being shrewish.
As their relationship teeters on the brink of divorce, the couple bumps into Morgan (Jeff Goldblum), Jim’s schoolmate who still reveres Jim’s intellect and revolutionary spirit all these many years later. Morgan, whose latest book is on the New York Times bestseller list, assumes that Jim is as wildly successful as he is, and treats Jim as a colleague, an equal. When Jim and Meg attend a dinner party at Morgan’s house, Jim finds himself mystified that his former classmate holds him in such high regard. Morgan is the anti-Meg, a sincere flatterer who doesn’t see Jim’s failures, just his memories of Jim’s potential.
The performances from Broadbent, Duncan and Goldblum are pitch perfect. Goldblum’s hipster fast-talking shtick works perfectly for bringing Morgan to life as an American member of the French intelligencia. Duncan acts tough and worldly, but she can’t hide the fear behind her eyes. She desperately wants to find fulfillment and contentment, and she knows she doesn’t have the time for mistakes. Failed romances are a luxury of youth.
The script by Hanif Kureishi is the primary failing of Le Week-end, his first feature film since he tackled the tale of two aging actors smitten with a brash female teenager in Venus (2006). Both films were directed by Roger Michell. Although the themes on display in Le Week-end have potential, the two primary characters are too thinly drawn for the audience to understand their motivations.
We get no backstory for Meg. She’s dissatisfied with life, but we don’t know why. Despite Lindsay Duncan’s best efforts, Meg comes off as a nag who simply wants other men to show interest in her to validate herself as a woman. The film is littered with veiled references to the life events that have brought Jim and Meg to this relationship crossroads, but none of them are explored further. The audience is left with the feeling that we’re only seeing half the story, and it seems to be the less interesting half.
Le Week-end lacks the narrative balance needed to tell the story of a failing relationship. Blame usually lies on both parties as they grow apart, but I spent most of Le Week-end thinking Jim should drop the idea of salvaging his marriage and move on while he still can. Maybe that’s some kind of subliminal male bias, but I think it’s just the result of an underwritten film and a failure to show enough events from Meg’s perspective. An audience can make assumptions and reach deductive conclusions, but the screenplay needs to provide enough story to work with.
The film is billed as a comedy, but the laughs are virtually non-existent, unless you find sarcastic insults between spouses entertaining. The screenplay also incorporates some “zany” antics into the film – dining and dashing from a posh restaurant, running up a huge tab at a luxury hotel that they can’t pay. These developments are neither funny nor do they seem to dovetail with what we know of Jim and Meg. Perhaps it was a spontaneous mid-life crisis that resulted in a brief crime spree.
From the Parisian setting to the swank dinner party, Le Week-end looks important, as if it has a great deal of wisdom to impart about aging, identity, the roles we play even with ourselves and the complexities of life-long relationships. Unfortunately, when you turn off the lights on the Eiffel Tower and snuff out the candles after the dinner party, there isn’t much left to see.
6 out of 10
The Movie Isle
Scott Phillips holds a degree in print journalism from the University of Georgia and is currently a member of the Georgia Film Critics Association (GAFCA). In addition to his role as a correspondent for Timed Edition, Scott serves as the Executive Editor and Senior Writer for themovieisle.com. From 2013 through 2017, he reviewed films for filmdispenser.com. Along with his duties as a critic, Scott serves as the Content Programmer for the Way Down Film Festival held in Columbus, Georgia every fall.