Le Week-End put me very much in mind of Richard Linklater’s Before Insert-Time-of-Day films, except it was worse. But otherwise it’s like the next installment, when Jesse and Celine are old and actively hate each other. A couple go to Paris, talk a lot to no real purpose, the woman is even more irritatingly irrational than the man, and then there’s some resolution but not really. So I’m afraid Linklater is the yardstick I use, and it’s not a flattering one.

Here, we have Nick (Jim Broadbent) and Meg (Lindsay Duncan) Burroughs, a recently-sacked professor and a still-employed-but-dissatisfied teacher. They go to Paris for their anniversary. Nick is clingy, about which Meg is hateful, but when he goes outside unexpectedly she goes insane, because…I dunno, because these movies always have crazy women in them. Then they run into an old schoolmate of Nick’s: Jeff Goldblum as Morgan, in the usual aging Lothario part Goldblum now gets. He invites them to a party, which of course results in further rudeness and insanity.

This sort of movie is supposed to appeal to us because it’s so “real.” Older “real” people worry about money (although they tend not to dine and dash with quite the breezy regularity of these Burroughses), they often have drifted apart and disagree about their children, and they regret that they never gave it all up to live in a draughty garret in Montmartre to write and paint and die of tuberculosis. These are “real” things about which people have “real” conversations in which they are deeply, cruelly unpleasant to each other. Often in public. Even, God save the mark, when they are English. Only bourgeois stooges, you see, repress their feelings and come to terms with the world as it is.

And, as this sort of movie, Le Week-End is fairly good. It has humorous moments, it is well-acted, and Paris is lovely. Le Week-End is worse than Before Elevenses, though, because those movies, though talky and slow, showed interactions that actual people might have. Celine and Jesse were nuts, but their conversations progressed in some human language, with traceable logic. Nick and Meg jag from accusations of infidelity to giggling over a large restaurant bill with jarring suddenness. And Meg is confused and insulted when Nick worries that she no longer loves him–though she has called him a pathetic idiot (not in loving banter) and said she wants to leave. So there’s that.

If you want to see two well-known actors exercise their craft in a script that is beneath them, and to be made fun of for your sad middle-class blindness, feel free to watch this movie. Otherwise, find another talky film in which Paris looks lovely; there are plenty.

Stray notes:

  • I hated both main characters. And I know that people are lousy and unkind, but it helps, when making a film, to create a modicum of sympathy for at least one of the people who is on the screen for 93 minutes.
  • Morgan has an unhappy teenage stoner son (of course) who is simultaneously attracted and repulsed by Nick’s despairing frankness. He rings almost true.

Director: Roger Michell
Rating: R
Length: 93 min.
Score: 3/5.

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