Movies have always had a love affair with Paris going way back when most films were shot in a studio, to the Oscar-winning An American in Paris with Gene Kelly singing and dancing all over the place to Gershwin’s music, to the more recent Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen’s love letter to the great city.
There’s a new film out now in which Paris once again is a character. It’s titled Le Week-End and despite the French title and Parisian locales, it’s in English. In Le Week-End, two Brits who have fond memories of the town in which they once honeymooned, decide that a return visit may help recapture what they’ve been losing over the years as their marriage cracks and strains.
The terrific British actor Jim Broadbent, whom you may remember from Bridget Jones' Diary and Gangs of New York, plays Nick. Not only is his marriage in difficulty, but he has professional troubles as well. Broadbent’s expressive face tells us that Nick feels the weight of the world on his shoulders at every turn.
He’s matched scene-for-scene by Lindsay Duncan as Meg, with twinkling eyes and a passionate curiosity for life and people. While searching for pieces of their past, Nick and Meg encounter a old friend of Nick’s, who has since become a noted scribe. Jeff Goldblum infuses this role with his usual charm and whimsy.
Don’t go to Le Week-End expecting a rollicking comedy. It’s not that. It’s much more. It explores truth, anger, relationships, sadness… all that you might expect in a film with this plot and characters. And it’s not really about Paris either, but as always, that city makes for a wonderful backdrop for the character’s soul seeking. You need to approach this film, as I did, knowing almost nothing about it and without any high expectations. And while it may have more in common with a film from the French New Wave of Godard and Truffaut than with Woody Allen, it’s a nice chance to get acquainted with a couple you may never encounter in real life. And in the bargain, you may even learn something about them and yourselves.
Roger Michell, best known for the Julia Roberts-Hugh Grant vehicle Notting Hill, capably directs the Le Week-End. He also directed Peter O’Toole to that great actor’s last Oscar nomination in Venus a few years back. Michell’s in familiar territory with Le Week-End and makes the most of his talented performers and famous locations.
The R-rated Le Week-End is currently on screen at the Mariemont Theatre.