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Review: Poetic ‘Le Week-End’ Starring Jim Broadbent, Lindsay Duncan And Jeff Goldblum

Review: Poetic 'Le Week-End' Starring Jim Broadbent, Lindsay Duncan And Jeff Goldblum

It is the August of their lives, and elderly couple Nick (Jim Broadbent) and
Meg (Lindsay Duncan) are absolutely lost. They’re attempting to go on holiday, during
what we’re to imagine is one of the quietest moments in their shared life. The
abrasiveness of Meg’s jokes suggests that things were never going well between
the two, but they were at least “going.” Now, in one of the harsher exchanges
of “Le Week-End,” Meg considers Nick’s hugs to make her feel like she’s being “arrested.”
He humors her because, why shouldn’t he? Nick doesn’t have to say anything, but
Broadbent’s eyes are enough to convey that this woman is all he has.

Roger Michell’s new film gains traction by observing Broadbent’s
hangdog features. No one in contemporary film conveys quite as much sadness as
Broadbent does when he looks up, his bulbous neck swollen with all the words he
just could never say. Your grief for this man is never overwhelming due to
those intelligent eyes, but Michell finds a way to flirt with those limits. Throughout
half of “Le Week-End,” Nick’s eyes are hopelessly affixes to Meg’s beauty,
which even in her later years hasn’t abandoned her, nor has she lost her
figure. Ms. Duncan is still vivacious in her advanced age, but through
Broadbent’s eyes she remains the prettiest girl at the party.

Nick doesn’t need to tell Meg anything for her to know that their world is
coming down. Not only is he being forced out of his professor job by a
suggested “early retirement,” but he has to cope with a ne’er-do-well son who
apparently wishes to move back in. Nick thinks he and Meg are visiting Paris to
pretend their troubles are a world away, but he’s frozen when Meg suggests that
their relationship has run its course, breaking the news as if an animal has
died. Nick receives this information as if it’s just another indignity in a
long line; this is a man who treasures what little he has, knowing it’s all
about to run away from him.

Michell’s handling of the relationship between the two is touching in how
little judgment he passes. Certainly there’s something torturous about Meg’s
ongoing temptation of the man she has just spurned. Rejection has its power,
and Michell makes sure to position Duncan at the top or foreground of the
frame, Broadbent in the back. But both Nick and Meg are in denial: Nick
attempting to forget that he is aged and unwanted, Meg that she’s wasted her
prime years as a seductress. Together, their trip becomes a drastic departure,
as they spend untold amounts of money and relive their youth. A moment when
they clumsily bail on an expensive check suggests that, were the practicality
of life sorted out, this would be a genuine romance, and not what appears to be
a marriage of semi-convenience.

Jeff Goldblum pops up halfway through this confused crossroads. He plays a
character named Morgan, and audiences may be divided over a few things. Is this
major Hollywood star a distraction? And is there anything negative about the
fact that he is a distraction? If Jeff Goldblum wandered into any film, playing
a thinly-disguised version of himself and proceeded to have a relationship
with the characters therein, is it an issue? Goldblum, forever one of the most
watchable actors on screens big and small, plays a former protégé of Nick’s,
now living a rich Bohemian lifestyle in Paris with a young, arresting wife. All
the famous Goldblum tics are there: the half-concerned three-finger temple
massage, the halted diction, the completely gratuitous mid-sentence shoulder
shrugs.

Morgan’s serendipitous appearance in the narrative allows Nick and Meg to
take their dysfunction to the film’s climactic dinner party, just as
frustration is bubbling over—Meg’s sexy heels prompt a deluded Nick to ask, “Did
you buy those for me?” when he already knows the answer. At this dinner party
is what feels like the inevitable culmination of the “Before Sunrise” movies,
as the barbs of “Le Week-End” are oddly depicted lovingly: Michell has created
a film where cruelty has become a warm blanket for desperate spouses, and there
is poetry to that. This couple stares into the apocalypse, and to each of them
it reminds of something different, but at the very least, therein lies comfort
that they do it together. [A-]

This is a reprint of our review from the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival.

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Comments

Bernadette Miller

Why are you arguing whether or not Jeff Goldblum is a star? Star, schmar…Goldblum is terrific in this film–as he was in The Grand Budapest Hotel. He has a terrific voice; he doesn't look like anyone else in film.

Andrew Preston

Watched this film tonight at my local film society here in the UK.
Good film. Classy actors. Yes, I'd say Goldblum is a star. It's not really a function
of the 80's, or 90's or whatever..

Withnail

You're quite right Marwood, 80's

Withnail

Jeff Goldblum, a major hollywood star? Are we back in the 90's?

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