Director Roger Michell has accumulated an interesting filmography. He broke through with the Julia Roberts/Hugh Grant romantic comedy Notting Hill, then followed that with an outstanding tense drama called Changing Lanes starring Samuel L. Jackson and Ben Affleck. The Mother was a May-December romance with a pre-Bond Daniel Craig as “May,” then cast Craig again in festival favorite Enduring Love. Last year he worked with Bill Murray in Hyde Park on Hudson.
None of these films are particularly straightforward (with the possible exception of Notting Hill). They all seem to have a dark twist that takes a movie-friendly setup, then steers toward discomfort and tension. For Le Week-End, Michell re-teams with screenwriter Hanif Kureishi (The Mother, Michell’s Venus starring Peter O’Toole).
In other words don’t expect Le Week-End to be the Best Exotic Parisian Hotel.
Sex after Sixty
DFF 36 (2013)
- 36th Starz Denver Film Festival : Our overview of the 2013 festival
- Sex, Drugs, & Taxation
- If You Build It
- Walesa: Man of Hope
- The Armstrong Lie
- Paradise: Hope
- Brave Miss World
- Uranium Drive-In
- The Girl from the Wardrobe
- The Closed Circuit
- I Used to be Darker
- Ilo Ilo
- The Retrieval
- Hide Your Smiling Faces
Meg and Nick, two older Brits, arrive in Paris for “Le Week-End.” It’s their anniversary. Nick (Jim Broadbent, as gentle as ever) is planning to talk about the tile for the bathroom, and maybe mention that he’s been fired and that they are now in financial jeopardy. Meg (Lindsay Duncan, confident and a little neurotic) is thinking about telling him she wants to start over and maybe leave him.
Jeremy Sams’ music sets the perfect tone with a solitary, wistful jazz trio whose texture is film noir and whose color is loneliness. Michell throws in visual references to Godard’s films and impish sense of humor. For example, Meg suggests that they run out on the restaurant rather than paying the bill.
This being their anniversary, Meg and Nick talk about sex. Nick would maybe like some more, but Meg is usually turned off by his touch. At one point she says it makes her feel like she’s being arrested. Broadbent’s Nick doesn’t seem like the type to manhandle his wife. We get the impression that Meg has never been happy and has found other more practical reasons to stick around in the marriage. Nick wonders if she’s been cheating, as though that’s the only reason his wife would be cold. Meg is offended at the suggestion.
They unexpectedly run into an old American colleague of Nick’s named Morgan (Jeff Goldblum, in full gregarious Goldblum mode). Morgan invites them to dinner after filling them in on his life. He has left his first wife for his second (“the Mona Lisa”) and wonders aloud if his decision was brave or foolhardy.
How the World Sees Them
At a dinner party, Nick and Meg learn how the world sees them. Their friend Morgan assumes they are in France to visit their country home. He flatters Nick before hitting him up for a loan. Nobody realizes Nick is now unemployed and that after tiling their bathroom they’ll be practically broke, if they’re even together any more.
The permeating sadness gets a small glimmer of hope at the climax, which is nothing but a toast at a dinner party. Morgan’s first toast captured Nick and Meg as they appeared to be — still in love, successful, taking weekends in France. But Nick can’t live a charade and offers a counter-toast that lays everything bare. As awkward as it is, it’s cathartic.
My mother and I are both Anglophiles; we are always won over by Britain’s light, charming comedies. From the title and casting, I expected Le Week-End might be one of those crowd pleasers. I was pleasantly surprised to find something darker and more substantial. But if you’re like my mother, you might take that as a warning rather than a recommendation.