I've always had the sneaking suspicion that too many films about Paris have been made by people who haven't spent a lot of time there. You know the movies: the ones where couples cuddle by the Eiffel Tower.
C'est des conneries.
Pardon my French, but those films are about as authentic as the World Showcase at Disney World or Paris Las Vegas, which is why I'm especially happy to report Le Week-End is set to touch down and unpack its bags in Boise.
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To its credit, Le Week-End lingers like a Sunday afternoon rather than a cliched Saturday night in a city of lights (Something's Gotta Give, Forget Paris). And le petit chocolat that is Le Week-End is served to us by a Brit: Roger Michell, the director who successfully put his country's Notting Hill on the cinematic map in 1999. So it should come as no surprise that Michell adroitly explores Paris through British couple Meg and Nick Burrows (note-perfect Lindsay Duncan and Jim Broadbent), revisiting the city of their honeymoon on their 30th wedding anniversary.
It becomes tres clair in the film's early frames that this trip is not intended to rekindle nor end this marriage. Within moments of their arrival in Paris, Meg learns that Nick has booked an economy hotel--"economy" meaning a raging embarrassment for Meg, who is so disgusted she jumps into a taxi (Nick barely manages to catch up with her) and begins to fill the driver's hand with more than a few francs, fueling a magnifique, albeit brief, taxi tour of Paris' hidden charms (trust me, a Francophile knows all too well that more than any other city on the planet, cash in the hand of Paris cabbie does wonders).
Meg and Nick end up in a four-star hotel, thus beginning a weekend that will far surpass their budget--only one of many problems they'll uncover. A highlight of the film is a wonderfully awkward dine-and-dash episode later that evening.
But a major word of caution here: Please don't make the mistake of confusing Le Week-End with other recent, popular art-house films such as The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel or Quartet, which somehow treat maturity as a punchline. Alternately, and more appropriately, Le Week-End's lead characters are not jokesters. Mind you, they're funny and occasionally hilarious, but Meg and Nick are also fragile and bittersweet. And because they know each other so well, they each hold the power to hurt one another--all the more reason to love this gem of a film.
Deep into Le Week-End, Meg and Nick are invited to a house party, when Nick drifts away from the gathering and finds a young man listening to music in a bedroom.
"Aren't you enjoying the party?" the young man asks.
"Enjoyment isn't my thing," says Nick, almost with embarrassment.
Enjoyment isn't Meg's "thing" either. They're both intellectuals with only random bursts of social grace. Occasionally they're out of sync with each other, especially when it comes to romance, but they're also able to slip into moments of simpatico that should feel familiar to any couple that has weathered the storm of disinterest. It's not as if Meg and Nick have entirely worn out life's dance card, they just tend to sit a few out while waiting for the band to play something familiar.
The pommes frites of Le Week-End is an unlikely but delicious appearance by Jeff Goldblum as an American in Paris who happens to be Nick's old college chum. In the choice scenes that Goldblum shares with Broadbent and Duncan, they all crackle.
Ultimately, this is economical filmmaking, and I mean that as the highest of praise. There's not a specious scene from director Michell and screenwriter Hanif Kureishi in Le Week-End, their fourth collaboration. More importantly there's not a false moment from Broadbent, Duncan or Goldblum. Enjoying such artistry is a full bottle of beaujolais; but let it breathe.
Sorry there are no upcoming showtimes for Le Week-end