The beauty of “Le Week-End” is found in the expertly crafted moments that director Roger Michell and writer Hanif Kureishi use to tell us the story of Nick and Meg, married for 30 years with no place to go.
The melancholy Dylan scene.
The shocking dinner scene.
And the delightful dancing scene, to name a few.
As the movie opens, Nick and Meg are emerging from the Chunnel on their way to Paris, where they honeymooned, to mark their anniversary. From the start, it is obvious that “celebrate” would be too strong a term for the state of their marriage.
Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan are flawless as the 60-ish couple. They are far from the people they were when they first wed, but they have been together too long to walk away. Meg copes through sharp verbal jabs; Nick’s weapons are silence and sarcasm.
Even after all these years, they also are still capable of carrying secrets and hiding their feelings and of being nearly as volatile as teenagers. Also, even after all these years, romantic sparks remain, and their genuine affection for one another still makes it to the surface – once in a while, anyway.
As Meg, Duncan has none of the joie de vivre we saw when she was “the crazy blonde” in “Under the Tuscan Sun.” Here she is going gray, getting old and often getting angry. She wants more from life, and Paris suggests how much she has missed.
Broadbent brings to Nick the subtle and all-too-common air of a man who quit trying to reach his potential ages ago and now is paying the price. It isn’t hard to see why Meg feels let down – not that she has helped any. So when Nick brings them to the very beige and nondescript hotel that he’s booked for their weekend, Meg cracks.
With Nick chasing behind, she makes a break for it, and they land instead in an unaffordable palatial suite where Tony Blair is said to have stayed. “As long as they’ve changed the sheets,” Nick remarks as he acquiesces.
After enjoying their stunning view of the Eiffel Tower and breaking into the well-stocked mini-bar, Nick and Meg set out in their argyle and tweed to re-create their romance. It is hit and miss, as their sightseeing is interrupted by calls from a deadbeat son. A highlight is a visit to Montparnesse Cemetery, where they pay respects to Beckett and Sartre.
The mood swings continue through meals and those moments:
Nick in his underwear, listening to “Like a Rolling Stone” on his iPod as it asks him, “How does it feel to be on your own, like a complete unknown,” and you see his heart breaking.
The couple at the home of Nick’s obnoxious Oxford pal, played fearlessly by Jeff Goldblum with no effort to endear himself whatsoever. In their own way, Meg and Nick each confront perception with their reality, with Nick’s dinner speech a masterpiece of self-revelation.
We think that’s the big pay-off, that their penultimate romp from the overpriced hotel is another of Michell’s nods to madcap cinema before things wind down to some sort of resolution. And it is.
But the resolution is so sweetly irresistible it will have you heading to YouTube for more. Your search terms: Jean-Luc Godard. “Bande à Part.” And “dance.”
Ah, Paris. Life can be good.