« Le Week-end », by Roger Michell : Paris forever

I remember ten years ago, it was my husband’s 40th birthday and I wanted to offer him something smashing, something he would remember, but he is not a great traveller and I was walking on eggshells. So I gave him the choice between a trip to Venice or a Nespresso coffee machine, which were brand new at the time.

I was devastated when he opted for–what else… the Nespresso, arguing that in Venice we would be sure to argue.    I divorced him shortly after that (mind you he kept the coffee machine), but I must admit there was some truth in his comment, not only because we were an ailing couple. A friend of mine threw away his wedding ring in the Rialto. I bet there are many stories like that.

When too much is expected - you have to be happy, you have to be in love, the pressure - the tyranny of happiness can have counter productive effects. If you are in paradise and not happy, it is more painful than if you had no good reason to be happy in the first place.

Being French, Paris is not a dangerous city for me, but it is for Nick (Jim Broadbent) and Meg (Lindsay Duncan), a couple in their 60’s who are traveling to the city of love to try to recapture what is left of their passion for their 30 year anniversary.

They start quarrelling when they arrive in a small shabby hotel with beige wallpaper in Montmartre.  Nick chose the cheap hotel to be just as it was when they were young, but Meg wants the real thing and she pays for it: Plazza Athénée one of the top hotel in Paris overlooking the Tour Eiffel. What else ?  Love making is a rarity for Meg resents her chubby body and Nick’s quest is often clumsy.

Then, fighting but laughing, they are going to enjoy the city, shockingly kissing in Le Sacré Cœur, picking restaurants - no English menu, not an empty place, not too full either… Like teenagers, they run away out of an expensive place without paying the bill. They kiss again, suddenly in love again, until by pure chance they bump into their old American friend, Morgan, (Jeff Goldblum), thrilled by his new 20 year old pregnant wife. But charmed by Meg.

Both Paris and their happy friend Morgan, are revealing the couple’s troubles. After pretending everything is alright, Nick suddenly expresses his disarray: he has been fired from his philosophy professorship, he is broke and has never dared to live his life. He loves his wife but is unable to enjoy life either without her or with her. Meg on the contrary is ready to enjoy life to the fullest with her husband or without him. The dialogue by Hanif Kureishi is finely chiselled, funny and cruel, the dramaturgy is very subtle and Lindsay Duncan’s supple body conveys the truth that once you keep smiling you are never old.

The actress bears some resemblance to Mia Farrow, and the film by Roger Michell has some of the same spirit as a Woody Allen movie with a British twist. Jim Broadbent, a bit like a bitter Bill Murray in « Lost In Translation », is very moving too. For sure « Le Week-end » is worth the detour and more efficient than couple therapy.

 

Both Paris and their happy friend Morgan, are revealing the couple’s troubles. After pretending everything is alright, Nick suddenly expresses his disarray: he has been fired from his philosophy professorship, he is broke and has never dared to live his life. He loves his wife but is unable to enjoy life either without her or with her. Meg on the contrary is ready to enjoy life to the fullest with her husband or without him. The dialogue by Hanif Kureishi is finely chiselled, funny and cruel, the dramaturgy is very subtle and Lindsay Duncan’s supple body conveys the truth that once you keep smiling you are never old.

The actress bears some resemblance to Mia Farrow, and the film by Roger Michell has some of the same spirit as a Woody Allen movie with a British twist. Jim Broadbent, a bit like a bitter Bill Murray in « Lost In Translation », is very moving too. For sure « Le Week-end » is worth the detour and more efficient than couple therapy.

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