‘Le Week-End’ goes in search of lost intimacy
The Aspen Times
If you go...
Tuesday and Wednesday, May 6-7
Wheeler Opera House
Paris is one of the most beautiful and romantic cities in the world, but is the charm and aura of the City of Love enough to save an aging couple’s marriage?
In “Le Week-End,” which screens at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Wheeler Opera House, that’s the hope for a middle-class British couple celebrating their 30th anniversary. Having honeymooned there, the couple banks on the notion that once back in Paris, the city will help resurrect their relationship and lead them to rediscover their long-lost passion for each other.
Jim Broadbent (“Another Year,” “Iris”) and Lindsay Duncan (“Alice in Wonderland,” “Mansfield Park”) perform as Nick and Meg Burrows, an enchanting couple searching for a connection and passion they once shared. They attempt to rejuvenate their marriage by visiting Paris for the first time since their honeymoon and take the audience for a roller-coaster ride as the couple unpacks 30 years of emotional baggage in one weekend.
The movie brings the intensity of the couple’s relationship up front from the opening scene on the train to Paris; an underlying tension exists that makes it obvious there are many issues at play for both Nick and Meg.
Both characters own a different idea of what they want from a trip to Paris, and that, too, is apparent early in the film. Nick is hell-bent on pleasing his wife and suffers with every personal inadequacy she blatantly highlights. There’s no lack of emotions, and the intensity with which they’re shared will make some audience members uncomfortable.
Such a naked portrait of the blemishes that sit atop the undercurrent of long-lost intimacy could lead to a depressing view of the couple were it not for the occasional glimmer of hope that appears just when it feels like the relationship is about to shatter.
Director Roger Michell (“Notting Hill”) directs the script written by Hanif Kureishi (“My Beautiful Launderette”). It’s not the first time the two men have worked together. Michell also directed “Venus,” written by Kureishi and produced in 2007.
Michell has the luxury of working with two fantastic lead actors in Duncan and Broadbent. The movie is shot on location in Paris, and the cinematography carefully shares some iconic areas of Paris with the viewer without distracting from the underlying mood of the movie.
The couple searches for answers to reconnect them with the affection and intimacy they once shared. Meg is determined to see Paris on her terms, whether the couple can afford her tastes or not. Her passion remains, albeit inconsistent between tender and biting. As Nick, Broadbent, one of the more versatile contemporary actors, carries hopes of reigniting a physical and mental intimacy he so desperately craves, but he is held back by his fears of aging, his own physical inadequacies and an inability to spark any reciprocal passion from his wife.
“You’re hot,” he says to Meg. “Hot — but cold.”
Things appear to spiral downward when Meg announces her need for a new start, one that doesn’t include Nick by her side. It’s obvious being lonely is a major fear for Nick, a state of being that he seems to be spiraling downward toward.
Meg shares the harsh news at a restaurant the couple can’t afford to pay for, but in a surprising twist, she instigates a “dine and dash” that eventually has the couple running down a Paris street together to avoid getting caught.
In that moment, the thrill of youthful fearlessness and lack of responsibility seems to rekindle some past emotions that allow the couple to connect intimately.
While the couple shares a passionate embrace, an old college friend (Jeff Goldblum) named Morgan sees Nick and happily catches up with his former mentor. Goldblum adds his eccentric personality and madcap humor to the mix, creating a dichotomy of personalities that elevates the mood and hopes of the film.
Morgan is a successful writer and invites the “lovebirds” to his posh apartment for a party with some heady guests and to meet his young wife. Meg is intrigued not only by Morgan but by one of his male friends whom she meets at the party, as she once again begins to question the purpose of her relationship with Nick, if there is one left after 30 years.
It’s at the party where Nick meets Michael, one of Morgan’s kids from a previous marriage, leading Nick into a drunken and stoned realization that makes him question whether he’s been wasting his life being faithful to the one woman he loves.
The movie reaches a climax during a dinner scene at the party after Morgan is convinced Nick is still the cutting-edge free-thinker he knew and admired in college. Morgan toasts the success of Nick, only to have Nick reply in a brutally honest monologue that leaves all those present stunned and speechless.
As Nick says at the end of his revealing confession, he feels like he’s “falling out of a window — forever.”
It’s in that moment that Nick forgets his fears and reveals a sincere honesty that Meg immediately recognizes, changing her view toward her husband dramatically for the better.
One can see the return of their youthful idealism and a loving connection in the scenes that follow. The final scene that connects Nick, Meg and Morgan while dancing in a coffee shop is heartwarming — an emotion the couple searches for throughout most of the movie.
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