Short Takes: Le Week-End
By Eric Hynes
(Roger Michell, U.K., 2013)
From title on down, Le Week-End is built on cursory cultural appropriation. It’s integral to the film’s plot, in which an aging English couple alight upon Paris for a marriage-reviving 30th anniversary. But it’s also crucial to the larger game, with Roger Michell, a South African director who specializes in middlebrow English comedies and dramas, adopting a more “European” visual strategy—negative space, trombone-slide focus shifts—with the help of French cinematographer Nathalie Durand and production designer Emmanuelle Duplay.
That the film both concerns and embodies tourism needn’t be fatal, and there’s enough self-awareness afoot, particularly in Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan’s lived-in performances. Less forgivable is the film’s whole-hog embrace of bourgeois boomer melancholia, which smothers everything—characters, action, the city itself—like a heavy hotel-room duvet. Though the characters voice financial anxieties—Broadbent’s Nick has recently been fired from his professorship, and Duncan’s Meg wants to retire—the quickest route to easing marital discord is to splurge on food, clothes, and a four-star hotel, with Nick’s frugality merely a damning sign of his inability “to live.”
Hanif Kureishi’s schematic script tellingly resolves when a dinner party hosted by Nick’s smarmy old Yankee chum—Jeff Goldblum playing Jeff Goldblum—finally propels the discontented couple back into each other’s arms. They may be unhappy old bourgeoisie, but at least they’re not American. And everyone can appropriate that.