Le Week-EndThursday 10 Oct 2013
Sadly, as you watch Le Week-End , you may actually forget - as this writer did to his own incredulity – that Hanif Kureishi, a talented fellow surely, wrote the screenplay for this rather disjointed, unconvincing affair.
Nick (Jim Broadbent ) is a likable philosophy professor, married to frosty, frustrated teacher Lindsay Duncan. Together they take the Eurostar from London to Paris to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary.
They bicker a lot, but have kept a youthful spirit of irreverence, and it seems to be shaping up to be one of those films about elderly married couples who love each other profoundly, even if they fight like cats and dogs. However, the fact is the film doesn’t quite know where to go. Hedging its bets, it seems to want to present itself, partly at least, as one of those sentimental comedies driven by a couple’s hard-bitten knowledge of each others’ foibles.
But the mood gets dark and darker yet, and by the time you are supposed to feel empathy, you have truly sickened of the vain, cold and egoistical Meg. Pathologically unhappy, she humiliates her husband, calls him an idiot, and plays on his emotional reliance on her, while trying to deny her own reliance on him.
She gives out to him because he wants things to be “too steady,” while she - wait for it - wants to dance the Tango and learn Italian. She is in fact flirting seriously with the idea of continuing without Nick at this late stage in her life. Yet wilfully manipulative, she must lead him on pathetically with what’s left of that ice cold allure she holds for him.
Thus the weekend in Paris proceeds, with some rather silly and improbable adventures, like the elaborate escape plan by which they dodge paying for a restaurant meal - sure, they have financial troubles, but really . .
A meeting with a former American student of Nick’s (played by Jeff Goldblum) sparks off a dramatic climax when he invites them to a dinner party. But it’s impossible to care much about them, because Meg’s problems with Nick have not been allowed sufficient exposition. The one sole instance of infidelity on his part, with a student years ago, is glossed over much too swiftly.
Ultimately Meg is a spoiled brat, and Nick is pathetic for being doggedly smitten by her. A more focused, more cogent screenplay - and without all that tired English-people-abroad whimsy, please - was all Le Week-End needed to make it a great film. One certainly cannot fault the actors, experienced veterans both.