Thursday, March 13, 2014

Broadbent and Duncan in LE WEEK-END: It's another fine Michell and Kureishi collaboration

The decade-long collaboration between director Roger Michell (shown below, right) and writer Hanif Kureishi (further below, left) now includes three remarkable films: The Mother (from 2003, in which Daniel Craig showed us capabilities far in excess of anything his 007 has managed), Venus (2006 and one of Peter O'Toole's latter-day wonders) and now LE WEEK-END, in which Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan play a long-married Brit couple taking a quickie vacation in Paris. For my money the Michell/Kureishi oeuvre is every bit as interesting and fine as Kureishi's earlier collaboration with Stephen Frears that resulted in only two films (but good ones!): My Beautiful Laundrette and Sammy and Rosie Get Laid.

Le Week-End proves quite a surprise for both its on-screen participants and those of us in the audience because, though it goes places we might expect concerning a long-married couple, because this "terrible twosome" is in a foreign country, and particularly in "the city of light," some kind of sea change occurs that allows the pair to, yes, bicker, fight and hurt each other but somehow manage to burn right through to the other side of it all. This is due, I think, to some very
fine writing by Kureishi that probes history and need in a natural, non-expositionary manner, and to three simply marvelous performances (the third is from the amazing, funny and quite wonderful Jeff Goldblum, who plays an old friend and compatriot of the husband, whom the pair encounters by chance one Parisian evening). How our couple steers its course around the Scyllas & Charybdises (did I get those plurals correct?) of the senior years, marriage, mentor-ing and professional jealousy makes for a most thoughtful, moving, funny and entertaining 93 minutes.

Mr. Goldblum, above, continues to amaze via his later work -- from Adam Resurrected onwards (he's out now in two movies: this one and The Grand Budapest Hotel, which I've yet to see). Here he tamps down the pomposity (it's still there but used so charmingly and well) and offers a performance alive with the quiet fear of a successful man who realizes that he is something of a fake, while enjoying what that fakery can bestow. And, ah, how he still loves his old friend.

Mr. Broadbent and Ms Duncan, above and below, as always, are stunningly real and immensely enjoyable to watch as they show us the ins and out of a couple for whom life together and life apart seem equally unbearable. Every moment here is real -- and entertaining, too, in the manner that fine acting always is.

Paris, too, has seldom seemed so special. And not in the charming and funny manner that Woody Allen presented it at "Midnight." Just walking down the street seems some kind of blessing, and  the meals -- ah, well! The British, as well as us Americans, may make fun of the French (and vice versa) but there is no denying the special place Paris hold in the hearts of so many of us. This movie brings that home.

The film's climax takes place at a dinner party at which our couple goes their own separate ways for a time: she into the sphere of an attractive younger gentleman (above), he into the room of the Goldblum character's son. These are lovely, poignant, genuine scenes, and the result -- taking place over the communal dinner table -- is one for the books.

Le Week-End, released by Music Box Films, opens tomorrow, Friday, March 14, in New York City at the Angelika Film Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinema, and in Los Angeles at The Landmark. The following week it will hit theaters in another dozen cities and then continue spreading out in the weeks to come. To see all currently scheduled playdates with cities and theaters listed, click here, and then click THEATERS on the menu bar midway down your screen.

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