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Le Week-End - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Le Week-End
Directing: B+
Acting: A-
Writing: B+
Cinematography: B+
Editing: B+

There's a bittersweet satisfaction to Le Week-End, about a couple struggling to celebrate their 30th anniversary in Paris. For those of us who are married: this is where we're probably where we're headed. Le Week-End shows how that's both a good thing and a bad thing.

And Lindsay Duncan, as Meg, and Jim Broadbent, as Nick, do a great job of showing us how that is. These are two people who know each other with a kind of intimacy that long ago transcends sex -- in fact, sex is all but nonexistent in their lives. That's not for lack of trying, on Nick's part; and it's something Meg freely uses as a manipulation tool. In one deliciously awkward scene, Meg has just dressed up for a night out, and in a rare moment, she hikes up her dress and tells Nick to "get down" and "look at it." There's something vaguely disturbing about seeing Jim Broadbent, at 64, crawling across the floor toward a woman and begging for "just one sniff."

But, it's a key scene, one that demonstrates the acute nature of how couples can get at each other. Meg and Nick have gone to Paris from their home in Birmingham on their anniversary "for old time's sake" -- returning to the place they once came in a younger, far more romantic time. Nick seems intent on rekindling some of that romance, and it's patently obvious how naïve he is. Meg wants to have a good time and go with the flow, much to the chagrin of Nick, who makes a futile attempt at being tight with money. After refusing the dumpy hotel they once stayed in, Meg leads their taxi to an opulent hotel with a stunning balcony view of the Eiffel Tower. As an aside, it's somewhat interesting how director Roger Michell (Hyde Park on Hudson) really makes no effort to hide the amount of smog in the city.

There's a pointed realism to this story, though, and Michell is careful not to allow any of the story to be seen through rose-colored glasses. Meg and Nick are a particularly unusual movie couple in their lived-in comforts, nuances, and struggles. Scripts like these usually over-romanticize or they depict a couple in longstanding throes of misery -- one extreme or the other. With Meg and Nick, the veer back and forth within minutes. One moment they're bickering to the point of Meg literally knocking Nick over in the street, hurting his knee; almost immediately, they're both laughing about it. It would almost feel schizophrenic if it weren't so well executed. You feel like this is a dysfunctional couple which, in the real world, is about as functional as you could hope to get after thirty years.

Then along comes Jeff Goldblum as Morgan, an old college friend of Nick's. Morgan brings with him a range of issues, chief among them the implausibility of his place in both Nick's current life and in this very story. There's also the fact that Goldblum, great as he is, is pretty much always playing Jeff Goldblum. Daniel Day-Lewis, he is not.

Morgan crosses paths with Meg and Nick on the street, and invites them to the aforementioned party. The two of them are in a nearly fire-breathing argument, in hardly concealed whispers spit through gritted teeth, as they climb the stairs of Morgan's building. Nick has just before, in their hotel room, quite recklessly and indefensibly accused his wife of infidelity. Morgan interrupts their hostility to welcome them to the party, which sets the stage for a particularly great scene in which Nick bears his soul in a most uncomfortable way at the dinner table.

Meg and Nick, separately, have interesting interactions with other guests at the party before dinner. A guy invites Meg for a drink later that evening, which she accepts, although it's left to us to decide whether or not she really means it. Nick winds up getting high with Morgan's son Michael (Olly Alexander) in his bedroom. It's the kind of scene that could play terribly, and here is uniquely touching in its sadness. Michael, for his part, perhaps desperate for something interesting to happen during his visits with an aloof father, is delighted by the scene Nick later makes at dinner.

As such, Michael is more fully realized than Morgan, who seems to exist mostly as a plot catalyst, which serves as the only disappointment in Le Week-End -- albeit a minor one. The wonderful thing about Meg and Nick is their capacity for moments of joy even in the midst of their despair and doubts. There are flashes of spark between them that make it impossible not to root for them, and that is itself what makes the movie a joy to watch.

Lindsay Duncan and Jim Broadbent enjoy a contentious anniversary in LE WEEK-END.

Overall: B+
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