Movie review: 'Le Weekend' is charming but messy

For the News-DemocratMarch 28, 2014 

What It's About

In the fetching adult romantic comedy-drama "Le Weekend," longtime married couple Nick (Jim Broadbent) and Meg (Lindsay Duncan) visit Paris for an anniversary weekend, where they honeymooned 30 years ago.

Meant as a getaway to rekindle their relationship, the trip forces the British pair to take stock of their lives. In Hanif Kureishi's insightful, wistful screenplay, the demanding wife and the contemplative husband recall the ups and downs of their thorny life together, what they still hope for, and what's ahead.

The intoxicating city's charms set the stage for pensive stops at museums, bistros and shops while they argue, cajole, laugh and show genuine affection. Their walks through long and winding cobblestoned streets bring out fluctuating emotions and feelings, and much reflection on their lives together and apart.

Director Roger Michell assuredly returns to the sophisticated and witty form he displayed in "Notting Hill" -- confidentally presenting a complicated couple peering into their golden years with apprehension and resignation.

A chance encounter with an American friend of Nick (Jeff Goldblum) helps them put things in perspective and change their course.

Performances

Sturdy, reliable Jim Broadbent, Oscar winner for "Iris," has delivered smart character work in a wide variety of roles, and here he shines.

As the leading man, he has an opportunity to plumb more depth, more textures, and it's a beautifully rendered, honest portrait of a college professor who is at a crossroads.

Nearing retirement and fretful of losing the wife he loves, he worries about a life adrift without purpose.

In contrast, his frustrated wife seems certain about what she wants. Lindsay Duncan ("About Time") effectively etches a complex character who doesn't solely want to be defined as a wife and mother, but scared of time slipping away.

She is dissatisfied with her current lot in life, willing to risk taking chances and being reckless to shake things up.

Broadbent and Davis capably display the rhythms of a couple who have been together for a very long time, and believably convey their unattractive character flaws.

Jeff Goldblum pops up midway to veer the story in a different direction, and he is a welcome addition.

What Works

For a grown-up movie, all the elements come together, yet the story, like life, is messy and ragged at times.

Paris is indeed stunning, and the film's look is captivating. An original jazzy score by Jeremy Sams perfectly adds to the mood.

What Doesn't Work

If it reminds you of the "Before Midnight" trilogy, you won't be alone in that observation. It is as talky as a two-person play, and at times, drags with its sheer flow of ruminations.

Yet, it has an ebb and flow like real life, and an earnestness about presenting real personas behind public facades. This is a diamond in the rough, and has multiple charms to satisfy.

3 1/2 stars

Director: Roger Michell

Starring: Jim Broadbent, Lindsay Duncan, Jeff Goldblum

Rated: R for language and some sexual content

Length: 1:33

Showing at Plaza Frontenac in St. Louis

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