To celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary, a British couple (masterfully played by Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan) heads to Paris for a long weekend in and around the hotel where they spent their honeymoon. All is not well, of course, this being a movie and not an anecdote. Le Week-End, the fourth collaboration between director Roger Michell and writer Hanif Kureishi, is smart, tart and engaging, playing at times like a fourth installment of Richard Linklater's Before Midnight/Sunset/Sunrise series.
The couple in question, by the way, are Baby Boomers. Baby Boomers! How startling it is to see Baby Boomers (like me!) playing old people. In one review of the film, most certainly written by another Boomer, the couple is described as "well into middle age." Apparently that writer is under the impression that the average lifespan is 125 years or so.
Gen Xers are headed into middle age. Yap all you want about 70 being the new 50. Boomers are either old or nearly old. I'm allowed to blather on about this, by the way, because Boomers operate under the assumption that nothing in the world is more interesting than we are. So be ready for a film with Pink Floyd references and electric Dylan ("How does it feeeeeel ...") as the boomer couple grapples with the enormity of their personal issues.
Meg Burrows (Duncan) wants no part of the cramped hotel where they honeymooned. "It's ... uh ... beige." So they end up in a beautiful, extremely expensive place with a view of the Eiffel Tower. Meg is unsatisfied with her life at present and has little patience for husband Nick's (Broadbent) emotional neediness. He seeks reassurance, affection, sex. Meg's mood keeps shifting, so he receives loving support, but on an intermittent basis, which increases his distress.
We don't see Meg and Nick back in Britain, but we hear about their situation. Their grown son, who only recently moved out with his wife and child, wants to move back in again. Nick hasn't shared another big piece of bad news: as a result of a smart-ass remark he made to an inattentive student, he is being forced into early retirement by the university.
With mellow jazz drifting in and out, Meg and Nick wander the weekend in Paris, sometimes laughing, sometimes squabbling. In the expert hands of Broadbent and Duncan, they are so genuine that it's nigh impossible not to stay involved, even when their behavior grows tiresome.
The goings-on get goosed when Jeff Goldblum makes a welcome appearance as Morgan, an Amercan expat who attended Cambridge with Nick. Morgan is prosperous, good-hearted and something of a blowhard, but lovingly so. Meg and Nick's weekend comes to a head at a dinner part at Morgan's, where the couple — experiencing a great deal of friction by this point — has significant encounters with other guests.
Until the party sequence kicks in, the film requires your patience as the anniversary couple meanders along with the screenplay. Le Week-End rewards those willing to hang in there with striking performances by Broadbent, Duncan and Goldblum, and a revealing look at the politics of a long-term marriage. Plus you get to see older Baby Boomers and their very important personal lives. Wondering if Boomers are really innately interesting? Just ask one of us and we'll explain it to you. At length.
Heaven is for Real ★★1/2 Based on the non-fiction book of the same name. A small-town couple (Greg Kinnear and Kelly Reilly) are stunned when their five-year-old son Colton (Connor Corum) talks about his trip to Heaven during a sort of near-death experience and calmly shares information about things that happened before he was born. The movie is even gentler than the hit book (for instance, movie-version Colton doesn't mention that only believers of Jesus go to Heaven. As a film, Heaven is for Real is earnest but timid. But it clearly meant a great deal to the rapt audience at the screening I attended.
★1/2 A scientist (Johnny Depp) working on creating a self-aware computer system gets uploaded into a super-computer after techno-phobe activists shoot him with a radioactive bullet. Then he becomes power mad, because that's what sentient computers do in dumb-ass movies and TV shows. Transcendence looks good, but the story is lousy and Johnny Depp spends most of the flick playing a talking head - Max Headroom without the fun parts. What a drag.