By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Bickering, snickering, and dickering: must be somebody’s wedding anniversary!
Yep, it’s marrieds Nick and Meg Burrows, a British couple from Birmingham played by Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan, who are celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary with a weekend trip to Paris, where they honeymooned all those years ago.
They’re two of the three hands in the bittersweet dramedy three-hander, Le Week-End.
In the City of Light these senior citizens — soulmates fighting through a bad patch — hope to rekindle their relationship.
Nick is a university philosophy professor saddled with whiny insecurities, Meg a grade school teacher with a bully’s mean streak.
The hotel they check into at the start of their trip is a disaster, so they move to another hotel, one with a view of the Eiffel Tower but that’s well out of their price range.
But what the heck.
Sampling the restaurants and cafés and seeing the sights, they even opt to dash out of one dining establishment without paying the check –- an act of illegal but stimulating spontaneity.
Then they run into an American named Morgan, played by Jeff Goldblum, with whom Nick went to Cambridge. Morgan, a best-selling author with a very young, pregnant wife, invites them to a dinner party the next night, where the Burrowses each have a modest adventure away from the other.
Then, when everyone sits for dinner and Morgan introduces Nick and describes how much he owes him from advice offered back in the day, Nick is forced to make an acceptance speech of sorts and it’s a show-stopping doozy, full of eloquent bitterness, painful self-pity, and inescapably honest insight.
Broadbent’s in-the-Nick-of-time monologue is the emotional highlight of the film, as well as a reminder of what a brilliant character actor is Broadbent, the Oscar winner for best supporting actor in 2002 for Iris and similarly superb too many other times to count.
And he’s paired with and matched by the mesmerizing skill of Lindsay Duncan, who’s far less familiar to moviegoers (although she was in last year’s About Time) because she’s worked mostly on British television.
Their collective portrait of a three-decade marriage between opposites attracting each other is about as lived-in, persuasive, nuanced, and sweet-and-sour poignant as is possible on a movie screen. We recognize and buy their familiarity, which breeds not only comfort but contempt as well.
Director Roger Michell (Hyde Park on Hudson, Notting Hill, Persuasion, Venus, The Mother, Morning Glory), collaborating for a fourth time with screenwriter Hanif Kureishi, lets his leads take us where they may. As a result, we believe these two are married, we believe they belong together, we believe they love each other deeply, and we believe they spend a lot of time not standing each other.
The only recent movie to rival Le Week-End as a clear-eyed and layered depiction and dissection of a longtime romantic and/or marital relationship is the Ethan Hawke-Julie Delpy starrer, Before Midnight. These two films are perfect conjugal companion pieces.
So we’ll celebrate 3 stars out of 4 for Le Week-End, a comedy-drama about long-haul marriage that’s biting and moving and, at its best, wincingly and convincingly realistic.