Glancing at the promotional posters for “Le Week-End” — with their romantic shots of the Eiffel Tower and a beaming, laughing couple — you might suspect this is a warm, fuzzy rom-com for the over-50 set. Paris is for lovers, as they say, and it’s easy to imagine a long-married couple revisiting their honeymoon haunts and rekindling the flame.
With a script by Hanif Kureishi (“My Beautiful Launderette,” “London Kills Me”), though, I was expecting something sharper, and “Le Week-End” certainly delivered — right from the moment 60-something couple Nick and Meg (played by Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan) lug their bags up the cobbled streets of Montmartre, only to find their old honeymoon hotel a dingy, run-down shell of what it once was, and Meg declares, “I knew this trip would be a f-cking disaster.”
From that point on, the film is a battle between Nick’s attempts to charm his wife and Meg’s general exasperation with her husband’s neediness. Broadbent and Duncan walk a very fine line, creating a couple in whom we detect real, hard-earned affection and intimacy, but who also have a history of pent-up resentments that threaten to boil over at any time.
|Rating||out of 5|
|Run Time||93 minutes|
|Language||English, French (subtitled in Japanese)|
Kureishi has given them some great lines to work with, Roger Michell (“Notting Hill”) directs with a light touch and the actors show great comic timing: Broadbent with his perfectly droll delivery — “A man who still wants to sleep with his wife, what a perversion!” he bemoans as Meg brushes off his advances — and acid-tongued Duncan’s defensiveness. Being with Nick, she tells him, “is not love; it’s like being arrested.” Much of the film’s success is thanks to the chemistry between these two.
Nick and Meg wander the streets of Paris, visit bistros, have a bit too much wine and say things they regret. They also run into an old college friend of Nick’s, the infinitely more successful Morgan (Jeff Goldblum), who’s a smarmy idiot, but blissfully unaware of leaving that impression. Morgan has divorced and made a second start in life — with a much younger spouse, natch — providing Nick and Meg further food for thought. Things come to a head at a party at Morgan’s, where Nick bonds with Morgan’s loner, Nick Drake-listening son, and Meg is hit on and has to decide: Should I stay or should I go?
The film’s title is a nod to Jean-Luc Godard, whose 1967 film “Weekend” featured an even more curdled couple, but its real homage is to Godard’s “Bande a Part” and its early 1960s brand of French cool. The effervescent dance sequence from that film has been quoted in movies by Quentin Tarantino and Hal Hartley, and it features heavily here, too, as a stark reminder of youthful joy and abandon for this aging couple. Can we find that part of ourselves, even in our silver years? “Le Week-End” positively demands that we do.