Film Review: LE WEEK-END: French letters of a middle-of-the-road kind

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LE WEEK-END is, ‘ow you say, a comedy-drama en plein couleurs about an old married couple who confront their excesses when returning to the city where they ‘oneymooned all those years ago. L’homme est Jim Broadbent, that well-known rascal from the ‘ARRY POTTER films, who has been known to put on weight for Woody Allen in BULLETS OVER BROADWAY – stage weight, because he put it on in stages. La femme est Lindsay Duncan who works more in theatre and telly but who can be seen in ABOUT TIME, that film de Richard Curtis about time travel that les Rosboeufs sont talking about. L’autre homme est Jeff Goldblum because we are watching a remake of that Francois Truffaut classic, JEFF ET JIM, sorry WILLIE AND PHIL – oui, there is already a remake of JULES ET JIM, merci Monsieur Paul Mazursky. Actually, LE WEEK-END is more Godard than Truffaut since it recreates the dance sequence from BANDE A PART in its closing moments.

But that’s quite enough of my bad English.  

Nominally, LE WEEK-END is the fourth collaboration between writer Hanif Kureishi and director Roger Michell. One could almost describe them as an old married couple. Michell saves Kureishi from his worst excesses, his sole movie as a director, LONDON KILLS ME for a start, where the lead character has the name Clint Eastwood – big shoes to fill, my friend, and you’re still in slipper socks. Kureishi saves Michell from making iffy romantic comedies like MORNING GLORY, though I confess I liked his last picture, HYDE PARK ON HUDSON, about Franklin D. Roosevelt’s booty calls – arguably a better title, but I don’t think Bill Murray would have signed on for that.

Sometimes when people ask me how to write a movie review – I know, right – I say ‘a movie tells you how to review it.’ Here, I think LE WEEK-END is best reviewed by its lead characters, Nick (Broadbent), Meg (Duncan) and Morgan (Goldblum).

Nick to Meg (inscribed on freshly scented hotel note paper – Nick had spilt a 30 year old bottle of Hi-Karate aftershave on it)

Meg, you are driving me to distraction. I should have never allowed you to take all the Euros. Now we’re in this swanky hotel, in a suite formerly occupied by Tony Blair. I told you I like my Labour Prime Ministers authentically Socialist. You have no business tipping the taxi driver. Leave that to rich tourists. Plus the cabbies coin it during transport strikes. The hotel I chose was perfectly adequate. I know we were penniless graduates back then but I wanted to recapture the poetry of poverty. All right, so it’s imaginative poverty on the part of the writer. You insisted we go for that expensive meal. Hippo would have been perfectly fine. Then we could not pay the bill so we scarpered. What are we, American? Having to re-negotiate our debt ceiling? Right now, you are positively Republican. OK, so I ballsed up my academic career, got into trouble. We’ve faced worse – that version of HAMLET that was all in Swedish for a start. So, you refuse to open up to me in a manner of speaking. I’m a sorry sausage. I know you appeared in the original production of LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES with Alan Rickman, but there is no need to punish me – see how I worked in an epistolary reference there. Good job we got invited to Morgan’s dinner party – a free meal. I’m sure I shall come across his teenage son who will teach me a few things about myself. Stop taking all the close-ups. Nick.

Meg to Nick, answer-message on his mobile phone

God, Nick, why didn’t Woody Allen ask me to be in BLUE JASMINE? You could have made some calls - you put a whoopee-cushion down your front for him, after all. I know - stay in character. Nick, you have been a disappointment to me. Multiple roles in CLOUD ATLAS and not an Oscar nomination! How long has it been since IRIS? Anyway, on this trip you have been a bore. Your idea of an afternoon out is taking me to an art bookshop. I want to see real pictures. OK, so Roger Michell couldn’t afford to film in Le Louvre; that would be like shutting down the city. I know - Ron Howard did that already. Curse Dan Brown for his low-brow culture. So I wanted an adventure – why else do people approaching old age go to Paris? What, good food, seeing old friends, long walks by the side of the Seine as the sun sets and the Tour Eiffel lights up! Blah! A curse on all your cliché! Hippo, oh yes, very good. There’s something about Paris that makes people go rash, impulsive. Yes, they have no CCTV. It’s against the law. Vive la France – I can shoplift with impunity [comment: don’t]. So now you’re talking me to a dinner party hosted by your old university friend. Talk about a coincidence – really, it’s improbable, what was Kureishi thinking? I was hoping for some magic realism, like that MIDNIGHT IN PARIS movie – parties with Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Gertrude Stein, or that bloke from THOR, at least. You complained about me being free and easy with money and checking into a hotel that we cannot afford – well, I’m hitting you with roaming charges. How do you like them pommes des terres? Meg

Morgan on his Facebook page – link sent to Nick and Meg

Jeez, I’m so happy to see you. I can’t stop waving my arms and stretching my vowels. Yes, I’m moonlighting as a traffic policeman. It’s so incredible that you’re here. Nick, you taught me to understand literature. I was just some cocky American who happened to pass his exams and am better educated than the average Brit. Yes, you taught me how to put ‘u’ in words. OK, so I lost my Monterey and I always wondered whether I could and never stopped to wonder whether I should. So now I’m married – again. I have this beautiful new wife that my son doesn’t exactly adore, but then I wouldn’t want him to because that would be one French film too many, or Italian, or whatever. I know such interesting people but I can look at you Nick like you’re the most important person in the world. Because my film career hasn’t exactly set the world alight and my biggest films were two JURASSIC PARKs and THE FLY. Cronenberg, I am waiting for that call when you’re tired of Viggo Mortensen. So I’ve been in DEEP COVER and BETWEEN THE LINES and had my Kasdan period, THE BIG CHILL and SILVERADO. I regretted EARTH GIRLS ARE EASY – but should not that be a cult film by now? This is my first British movie since THE TALL GUY – what happened? Why did Hugh Grant steal my career? It’s not that I’m feeling sorry for myself – I’m feeling sorry for Mr Grant and that MICKEY BLUE EYES. So I’m really pleased to see you and you’re in trouble for not paying your hotel bill, but I know someone who can put in a dance number instead of an actual ending, but let’s do it in a cafe, because you need fewer permits. I’d never thought I would do low budget films but if it’s good enough for Nicolas Cage. It isn’t? Gee, do you know my teeth are all my own – paid them off in instalments. No, seriously. What the credits are rolling? We learnt that the British are resilient in uninspired marriages and turn away their own offspring? Did they say Kureishi was a cutting-edge writer? Blunted edge, I think. Like me, Morgan - a suitable case for tweet-ment.

Larry Oliver is currently writing the novelization of LES MISERABLES

About the author


Independent film critic who just wants to witter on about movies every so often. Very old (by Hollywood standards).

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