After seeing a review of Le Weekend on the television that implied that Nick, Jim Broadbent's character, gives Meg, Lindsay Duncan's character, the brush off, I went into the film determined to hate Nick and take up mental cudgels on Meg's behalf. How could such a plain man possibly think he was too good for lovely Lindsay?
As it turned out, I'd got hold of utterly the wrong end of the stick - although inadvertently I had possibly gained an inkling of what it might be like to be inside Meg's head. The film actually concerns a couple in which the wife, Lindsay Duncan, who describes herself as suffering from boredom and fury and something else I've forgotten - frustration, exasperation, something along those lines - is vain and, presumably because of her considerable beauty, (no evidence is given of the character possessing any other outstanding quality, unless you treasure intense materialism, impatience, dishonesty and a fondness for playing chasies through the streets of Paris in your sixties), thinks she has the right not only to feel disdain for her husband, Broadbent, but to biff him from time to time. On one occasion, she even knocks him to the ground. On another, she lashes out and manages to draw blood. She also calls him an idiot and tells him he has no balls.
The pair have not had sex - at least with each other - for at least five years, which makes this trip to Paris for their anniversary a pretty optimistic gesture. One of the reviewers I saw, while otherwise enthusiastic about the film, commented that they had not enjoyed the film's sex scene, but so far as I could tell there was none - although we do once see Broadbent asking whether he might be allowed to 'mount' Duncan.
Her response, for which I have to admit she really can't be blamed - sex is something that requires persuasion rather than abject requests for permission surely - is to say she is just dropping off. Broadbent accepts this and wanders off to stick pictures of Samuel Beckett and various artworks and headlines cut out of newspapers all over the hotel room walls.
The hotel room in question, by the way, is extremely grand, if you like that sort of thing, and is not the one originally booked by Broadbent. That one was in the hotel they'd enjoyed staying at decades earlier, but Duncan, on seeing it, instantly chucks a fit. 'It is beige', she declares, as if this is a mortal sin. She hails a taxi and sets off, first to roar round and round Paris, hurling euros at the driver, and then to find the most expensive suite the city can provide instead. The one she settles on carries the recommendation that it has been slept in by Tony Blair - 'so long as they've changed the sheets since', is Broadbent's only response to this information.
Clearly, Broadbent has poor judgment - as well as deciding to marry Duncan thirty years ago and allowing her walk all over him now, he has also managed to lose his job as a lecturer at a second rate university for saying something really stupid and pretty unpleasant - 'If you put as much effort into your studies as you do into your hair you might stand a better chance of escaping your origins'
- to a black female student.
He reveals this fact at the couple's first meal in Paris - (and, incidentally, I found it a bit annoying that at all meals in restaurants the couple sat next to each other, rather than facing each other; obviously this is ideal for cameramen, but most people don't do that, so it seemed a bit contrived). Supposedly, Nick/Broadbent has been told to take early retirement, which strains credibility a bit, since he looks to me as though he's fairly ready to be put out to pasture with no early about it, (what is the retirement age in Great Britain, I wonder).
The couple meander about Paris, bickering. They go to a very pricey restaurant and run away without paying for their meal, (Meg's caper). They bicker some more. They make a complete shambles of Tony Blair's hotel room. By chance, they encounter a successful celebro-academic American, played by Jeff Goldblum, whom Broadbent knew at Cambridge.
Like Meg/Duncan, the American is vain and grasping, but he does at least have the good manners to admit as much. He is also full of a Woody Allenesque sort of neurotic energy, which I found refreshing after the dishwater dreariness of the English characters. If a climax is precipitated - and perhaps fittingly, just as in the couple's bedroom, so in their portrayal on the screen, it is unclear whether any climax is really reached - it is through the arrival of Goldblum in the film. Nick makes some kind of statement about what he believes in. Later he repudiates his son. Whether because of the former or the latter, Meg and he are reconciled. They are also broke. The New World eventually comes to the rescue. The titles roll.
Perhaps I was in a particularly Presbyterian frame of mind but I came away from the film wondering how it was possible that all these people who had been endowed with such enormous good fortune - relative wealth, the ability to travel where they liked, et cetera et cetera - could not notice that they were incredibly lucky. Their sense of entitlement was almost decadent, it seemed to me. On the other hand, I found the final scene in which the three main characters jive in some kind of homage to Jean Luc Godard rather charming.
On a positive note, the music was good and the film itself was very nice to look at throughout. The problem was, for me at least, that I could find no reason at all to care about the central characters. Meg was too flawed and Nick, by contrast, too saintly. The combination amounted to something that seemed without insight and really rather dull. an adjective you would never attach to Weekend, Godard's film after which, presumably Le Weekend is partly named. It's years since I've seen Weekend - first year of university in fact, when Dr Colin Crisp, a really great teacher and film scholar, (I wish he would write more in the papers or appear on the ABC to talk about movies) - ran a French cinema course within the French department at ANU. I hated it then but it was at least interesting enough to make me prepared to give it a second go - I'm not sure Le Weekend will stand the same test of time.