By Glenn Dunks
February 18, 2014
Getting the jump on the Before franchise’s ‘senior citizen’ edition is Le Week-End, director Roger Michell’s mature side-step from previous works like Notting Hill. As if to further accentuate the similarities to Richard Linklater’s trilogy, Le Week-End even casts beautiful Julie Delpy-lookalike Lindsay Duncan, who stars with Jim Broadbent as Meg and Nick Burrows, a couple attempting to rekindle the marriage spark by vacationing in Paris.
Upon reaching their destination, years of contrasting personalities boil to the surface. He wants to tour the city at a more leisurely pace; she wants to tear through with gusto and skip the bill at restaurants like teenagers. He wants to stay in the nostalgia-tinged hotel they once shared their honeymoon in; she wants to stay in a fancy palace on the Boulevard.
What the marketing fails to mention is the darkness that permeates throughout. There is a real bitterness from Meg towards Nick about the state of their relationship that feels tangible and identifiable. There’s a genuine curiosity to it that doesn’t sit comfortably with the cutesy whimsy (how about that Godard Band of Outsiders dance scene?) and tired jokes about older generations and sex that screenwriter Hanif Kureishi included.
It’s when the picture trades on its stars that it scores. Broadbent’s Nick has the aura of a man physically exhausted by the gauntlet life has thrown him in the years that are meant to be the most peaceful. Conversely, Duncan is ravishing as Meg, still desirable and energetic but fighting a losing battle for her husband’s affections. Jeff Goldblum, however, is at his most Jeff Goldblum in the role as instigator for Nick and Meg’s climactic confrontation.
Handsomely photographed – then again, it’s hard to make Paris ugly – Le Week-End is what Jesse and Celine may have to look forward to in 20 years. And like that pair, audiences will likely side with one or the other; exactly the sort of thing that could foster interesting post-film debates. While I’m probably too inexperienced in the world that Meg and Nick find themselves in, I do know – thanks especially to Lindsay Duncan’s frank, funny, and flustered performance – Le Week-End is slightly more interesting than one might expect from the frothy confectionery premise.
Le Week-end arrives in Australian cinemas February 20, 2014.