Sunday, May 11, 2014

Le Week-End

Run, do not walk, from this movie

The Misleading Poster
 Roger Michell’s Le Week-End, written by Hanif Kureishi, starring Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan, and set in Paris, should have it all with that pedigree.  We’ve wanted to see it since it opened a few weeks ago at The Mariemont.  We
assumed it would be a charming, witty, touching comedy dealing with a couple in late middle age coming to terms with their lives.  The ads make it look like that, but the reality was something different.  I think I was about the only person laughing in the cinema and that was only because I couldn’t reach out and shake the main characters.

The Contemptuous Wife (Duncan) with Broadbent
     Neil and I certainly appreciate and enjoy movies with darker emotions as anyone who reads this blog can attest.  However, this starts in a discordant manner with the wife already treating her husband with contempt.  As Malcolm Gladwell pointed out in one of his essays in Blink, contempt is the emotion that will kill a relationship before dishonesty or anger.  There were many allusions to Samuel Beckett

Visiting Beckett's Gravesite
throughout.  Fortunately, Broadbent and Duncan play things with a lighter touch (if only most productions did so with actual Beckett scripts), but a viewer knows there’s trouble when the first thing a British bourgeois, academic couple does in Paris– Paris (!)– is to visit Beckett’s grave at Montparnasse Cemetery.

     Beckett’s “We can’t go on.  We’ll go on.  (They do not move),” which I’ve paraphrased, has been the basis for every marriage play since Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962), Beckett’s own Happy Days (1961), but Le Week-End just doesn’t use language in the extravagant, baroque manner of those and the pull of that post-British Empire kitchen sink literally sinks the spirits when these people are in Paris – PARIS – not Birmingham from whence they originate, nor
Jeff Goldblum
Detroit, nor Calcutta, but PARIS.  We find out all their problems during toasts at a dinner hosted by an old friend, who’s sincerely superficial and played with relish by Jeff Goldblum.  I thought it was bad taste bordering on rude to be quite so ‘honest.’

Alexander and Broadbent
There is one poignant scene between Broadbent and Goldblum’s character’s son, played by Olly Alexander, where they both realize they don’t understand Goldblum and don’t feel too secure with themselves either.

     Even though Broadbent and Duncan give excellent performances, their characters still seem to be more into themselves than each other by the end.  He’s a genial schlub lost in a befuddled nostalgia (no, you can’t go back to your undergraduate years and they were nothing like what you think they were) and she’s castrating, hoping for a different future, but not doing much to get there (plus, wherever you go, you take yourself there and you better have enough money to be there).  The movie actually lost me about thirty minutes in when the couple eats dinner at an understated, sophisticated restaurant. When they can’t pay, they dine and dash, and I despised them for it.  So yes, Gladwell was correct:  contempt will kill your positive feelings. 

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