"Le Weekend": a ho-hum *** movie

Posted by RDN under Mind & body / On movies on 31 October 2013

I wanted to love Le Weekend. It had been discussed as not being a feel-good rom-com or Gerry-romp (even one as good as The Exotic Marigold Hotel, let alone as bad as Quartet), and wasn't. It seemed likely to not make its middle-aged actresses shriek (as in Mama Mia and It's Complicated), and it didn't. But it was dangerously adolescent anyway….

I think it was a great mistake to have Mrs Burroughs chuck money at a cabbie to have him drive faster and more furiously. What British adult would try that anywhere in the world, let alone Paris? And whilst I felt with her on her dislike of the brown walk-up hotel room, why on earth were we supposed to believe that this pair would check into the Hôtel Plaza Athénée? It would surely have occurred to them that it would cost something like 2000 Euros a night. (And what about the probability that the robustness of their credit card would have been assessed by the hotel before rather than late into their stay.) And would they then have overcome the habits of a savvy drinker's lifetime and sip champagne from the mini-bar? And would Mrs Burroughs really have bought clothes from the hotel's boutique? Why not, instead, have this pair behave in an acceptably extraordinary way, say by checking into a four-star, and by brown-bagging their liquor past reception, and shopping in a high-end designer store? The movie's demographic would have been quick to see the boldness in such steps – but was instead patronised, as though this was Pretty Woman for the grey pound.

Whilst we're on about it: I did not accept the "transgressive" behaviour of the Burroughs' in bilking the expensive fish restaurant (and certainly it was not something you'd try at a high-end hotel which anyway had your passports). It was improbable, for a start, and beyond that, was terrifically unattractive. And what was that nonsense about hoovering up expensive art books, sight unseen, just to cut them up? And then to glue the pictures (or whatever) to the hotel walls. The Burroughs' in a million years would not have descended into the sort of behaviour they presumably would not have allowed when bringing up their toddlers.

The problems went deeper. Wasn't Mrs Burroughs actually a tremendous pain? I didn't mind that for whatever reasons she had come to resist her husband's sexual advances. But she invited a good slap (figuratively, of course) at the point at which she invited him to sniff at her parts and then insisted on frostily shrugging into her frock. (Shades, by the way of a hilarious Jethro joke.)

I should perhaps say, uncharitably, that from the very start I didn't believe that the glamorous, kempt and sparky Mrs Burroughs would have for so long tolerated the dolorous, hangdog and scruffy ways of her clever spouse, with or without intimate relations. One or other would have had to change before now.

I very much liked the slow-reveal of the characters' characters. I liked the gradual evolution of the plot. I liked that there was no vulgar exposition, jeopardy, cataclysm and catharsis of simpler movies. I liked a lot of the script, and the vignettes of late middle-aged married life and tourism.

But it was, on reflection, a bit weird that we had watched so much happen and yet were left with the characters curiously unmoved and unchanged by our time with them, and with their relationship almost as much in the air. I do see that one point of the movie might be that nothing ever changes. Perhaps, anyway, I am being unfair. We know, by the movie's end, that each character had nurtured illusions – positive and negative – about the others. We had seen the Burroughs' knowing new things about each other better. And we are left – in an adult, good way – to speculate what they would do with each other next.

So maybe, one wet Saturday afternoon, this movie will be on the box and I'll watch it with some of the pleasure  felt in the cinema but which ebbed away a bit as I thought about it in the car going home.  Its failings will have lost most their power to irritate.

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