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'Le Week-End' Is More Than Just A Breezy RomCom Romp In Paris

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Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan in 'Le Week-End' (courtesy of Music Box Films)
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Sometimes the most refreshing moviegoing experiences come when you expect them the least. Le Week-End's initial premise of an older couple looking for a spark in Paris on their wedding anniversary seems about as hackneyed and cliched as it comes, especially in the world of romantic comedies. However, familiar places and scenarios often still find ways to surprise you.

Directed by Roger Michell (Notting Hill), Le Week-End almost knowingly tosses aside its Getaway In A Famous City trappings right off the bat. Meg (Lindsay Duncan) keeps feeding Euros to a Parisian taxi driver to cruise past all of the city's famous landmarks and once that five-second sightseeing montage out of the way, the movie can get on with it. In tow is her husband of thirty years, Nick (Jim Broadbent), who is grudgingly along for the ride to a five-star hotel after Meg deems the room Nick has initially booked to be unacceptable (especially the paint job). The room he booked was the one they had on their honeymoon thirty years ago, but, like their marriage, something has changed.

As Mike D'Angelo noted in his review over at The Dissolve, Le Week-End pokes at the romanticized notion of a carefree romp in Paris that cures all (much like last year's LAist favorite, Frances Ha). The couple blows through all of the expensive amenities their luxury suite offers and eats out at fancy restaurants. Instead of using the weekend for romance and relaxation, the couple takes the opportunity to reopen old wounds and shoot each other down. Thirty years of disillusionment, discontent and the slow death of the married couple's sex life all come to a head.

Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan keep the film afloat even if their respective portrayals of Nick and Meg can turn downright ugly. At times Le Week-End can seen disorienting as their conversations bounce to and from sweet nothings to petty arguments to outright accusations. Meg's unhappiness never seems to be diagnosed as more than possibly falling out of love with the man she married, though Nick's discontent stems not just from a lack of sex but also the gradual fading away of his youthful aspirations. An academic who sprung from the progressive moments of late 60s/early 70s Britain, he never quite survived the transition to careerist family man.

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To its credit, Le Week-End doesn't gloss over too many of these thorny issues as it wraps up, but when it does wrap things up a little too neatly, it undercuts just how daring its first two acts were. A speech by Nick at a dinner party hosted by a colleague they just-so-happened to run into (Jeff Goldblum) that just lays everything on the line grinds the film to an alarming halt. The sense of an irreversible demise that provided the film with its momentum is sucked dry.

Le Week-End's outcome comes as no surprise, despite all of the strange twists and turns the couple's weekend takes. Even the dumb Band Of Outsiders nod it closes with is telegraphed much earlier. But by then I didn't care, I was won over by this couple. You end up rooting for Nick and Meg because they both feel like tragic figures valiantly swimming against the current to salvage what little they still have between themselves.

Le Week-End opens at The Landmark in Los Angeles and the Angelika Film Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinema in New York tomorrow.