Title: Le Week-end
Director: Roger Michell
Starring: Lindsay Duncan, Jim Broadbent, Jeff Goldblum
Runtime: 1 Hour 33 Minutes
What It Is: Nick and Meg, a married couple in their late-50s, are on a weekend trip to Paris to celebrate their anniversary and reawaken the flame. Things don’t quite go to plan, as home truths, broken dreams and financial realities begin to come to the fore. Providing a peek of what Before Midnight’s Jesse and Celine might be like in 20 years’ time, Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan’s long-married couple quarrel and fret through a weekend in Paris in this bittersweet comedy-drama.
What We Think: Broadbent’s philosophy lecturer Jim and Duncan’s biology teacher Meg are optimistically hoping to relive their honeymoon in the city of light 30 years earlier. Jim has even booked the same hotel, but when it turns out to be dingy and unsatisfactory Meg takes charge and wildly checks them into one of the city’s grandest hotels, a place far beyond their income. (They end up in the ‘Prestige Suite’, where Tony Blair once slept.) Yet far from energizing a stale marriage, the weekend quickly brings the tensions in their relationship to the fore, strains that are only exacerbated when they run into Jim’s old Cambridge friend Morgan (ostentatiously played by Jeff Goldblum). A rich and famous writer now married to a much younger Parisienne, Morgan invites Jim and Meg to a party at his impressive apartment, where some sore home truths about their lives get a very public airing. For a moment, you fear that the film is about to head into Edward Albee territory, but Broadbent and Duncan’s characters, for all their raw irritation with one another, are nowhere near as savage as Albee’s George and Martha. Instead, this is a funny-sad, shrewdly observant portrait of a marriage, and of the disappointed dreams and thwarted ambitions of late-middle age. Le Weekend is really well acted, but the premise is a little hard to buy at times and you do wonder how they were ever initially attracted to each other in the first place due to the sheer cruelty shown on occasions.
Our Grade: B, Broadbent, and Duncan are at the peak of their game (and Goldblum’s extended cameo is terrific, too); Kureishi sprinkles his writing with plenty of quotable zingers (Duncan gets the best’ ‘Each time I take off my knickers I think there’s going to be an eclipse.’); and Michell plays deft respect to French cinema, with a charming reworking of a famous scene from Godard’s Bande à part that will make sure you leave the cinema in a cheerful mood. As a postcard of Paris, Le Week-End is delightful.