There is a marvelous moment where you hear Bob Dylan singing “Like a Rolling Stone”. Here is the refrain that captures this film:
How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?
Le Week-End is a psychological study of marriage. While everyone recognizes it as one of life’s great adventures, Director Roger Michell’s Le Week-End provides the viewer with a “cause and effect” cinematic painting that resembles an autopsy done to determine cause of death.
Here we have Meg and Nick, a British married couple traveling to Paris to celebrate their 30th anniversary. Celebrate might be the wrong word, as they are attempting to find a way to get their derailed marriage back on the tracks.
To begin with, Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan are mesmerizing as the married couple. He is a college professor who is hiding the fact that he has been shoved into retirement, while she is a teacher who is basically asking the time-honored question, “Is this all there is?”;
As you watch them on a short, convoluted journey that interconnects love and despair, the film opens up a window into everyone’s marriage. Put another way, what if you are married to someone you consider to be both a romantic genius and a functioning fool?
One moment you see Nick and Meg kissing madly on a Parisian street and the next you see a frustrated Nick telling his wife, “Why don’t we just return to London and schedule a double suicide”. You see Meg dressing provocatively at night for a husband who barely notices, and then you see this subsequent exchange in bed:
Nick: “May I touch you?”;
This delightful film combines moments of inspired humor with regrettable angst. The expense of Paris is of no importance to Meg, and Nick disguises the fact that his long source of income has been lost. Their laughter in restaurants leads to arguments on the street, one of them resulting in Broadbent tripping and falling on the pavement after being pushed by Ms. Duncan. The closeness of our couple allows them to find a bit of fun even in that foolish moment.
Ironically, what adds adventure to the film is the appearance of Jeff Goldblum as Morgan, an old friend of Nick. They meet by accident on the street, and Morgan invites them to a party at his fancy condo. Neither Nick nor Meg really want to go, but they feel they have no choice.
Goldblum’s Morgan has recently published a best-selling book, and the party guests are professionals who clearly exist in an orbit unfamiliar to both Nick and Meg. On top of that, Goldblum embodies a guy who is trying to rediscover life by having the excitement of starting over with a young wife and a new family.
Quite frankly, I have never been a fan of Mr. Goldblum, but I sense that he is resurrecting his acting career in the same fashion as Matthew McConoughey. He was wonderful in The Grand Budapest Hotel, and here he is a flamboyantly earnest guy who leaves Nick wondering if he should follow his path.
Everything turns on its head at this party, and it is central on determining the future of our married couple. Forced to confront their personal weaknesses, they also discover their mutual strength. Nick has Morgan’s bored, teenage son by a prior marriage to thank, and you will embrace their interplay.
Lindsay Duncan is positively charming in her role as Nick’s perplexed spouse, and in many ways this film belongs to her. Sure, she is 63, but she should accept that as a compliment. She remains a beautiful, talented woman in every respect.
As for Mr. Broadbent, there is no better actor appearing on screen today. He has been in a long list of great movies, and I at least have to point out the all but forgotten Enchanted April (1991); his fabulous performance in the unforgettable Moulin Rouge! (2001); playing William “Boss” Tweed in Gangs of New York (2002); his hysterical performance as the twisted Inspector Butterman in the very funny Hot Fuzz (2007); his moving performance as a distant father in When Did You Last See Your Father (2007); his sterling contributions to the Harry Potter series as Professor Horace Slughorn; his captivating role as King William in The Young Victoria (2009) and his performance as Margaret Thatcher’s husband in The Iron Lady (2011).
In the end, Le Week-End is a film that will mean something to anyone who has been married for over 20 years. No marriages are perfect, and the successful ones function as partnerships with people who are committed to each other. It is human to make mistakes, and it is also human to forgive them.
To age with someone who you love is not to be overlooked or understated. I hated the Ryan O’Neal/Ali McGraw film Love Story (1970) which contained the abysmal line, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” The opposite is true, and great marriages reflect a bond that goes to the very heart and soul of mankind.