28 October 2013
So When ‘Le Week-end’ Comes …
Back in the 1960’s (when I was still wearing short trousers and we had great pop music), The Drifters famously sang about being ‘in the back row of the movies on a Saturday night with you’. I still have the LP stored somewhere in the loft. (LP = long player – vinyl, for those of you who are wondering.) The lyrics included the line ‘But when the weekend comes’. So possibly for reasons of nostalgia, or possibly because it was recommended, when ‘Le Week-end’ came, I naturally decided to go and see it.
(I’m inserting a spoiler alert here, by the way. If you haven’t seen it and you’d rather not know too much about it, look away now.)
Well, hands up those of you who thought ‘Le Week-end’ was a Romantic Comedy for old gits? It’s certainly aimed at old gits and follows in the footsteps of a number of films of that ilk eg. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (bad) and Quartet (good). It seems that the film industry has finally woken up to the fact that people of a certain age (they call it the third, I believe) are still active enough to go to the cinema and there are a lot of them - or perhaps I should say ‘us’ as I number myself amongst them. And if you’re old enough to remember short trousers and good pop music, you should number yourself amongst them too. So thank God someone’s making films we can relate to – or can we?
Firstly, ‘Le Week-end’ does not come across to me as at all ‘romantic’. It’s certainly not about finding, or re-discovering ‘love’ in later life. It may even be about discovering lack of it. I failed to discern any real tenderness between the main characters and there’s no kiss worthy of the name in the whole film. Nick wants sex, it’s true, but it seems almost mechanical. Meg however, does not and there’s no indication of that ever changing. But as any old git will know, kissing and sex don’t necessarily amount to love, although a little tenderness doesn’t go amiss. So if you’re expecting, as I was, a film in which two older people ‘find’ each other and walk off into the sunset holding hands, you’ll be disappointed.
And secondly, it isn’t funny either. I don’t think I laughed once throughout the whole performance, although that’s not unusual as I see most comedy as tragedy – I tend to cry at other people’s misfortunes rather than laugh at them. But then, I didn’t cry either which suggests that if there was any comedy, I missed it, or if there was any tragedy, it wasn’t deep enough to affect me. I don’t even remember any old git jokes eg. taking forever in the loo or forgetting stuff. Nick falls over and hurts his knee, but so what? There’s nothing funny in that.
So if it’s not a Romantic Comedy in which two older people get together, is it in fact a tragedy in which two older people draw apart? There’s certainly a sense of that. Nick tells us in his speech at Morgan’s (Jeff Goldblum) dinner table that his life is f***ed. This revelation seems to be for the benefit of the character rather than the audience since I could have told him that from the start. Meg considers going off with another man. She doesn’t, which tends to suggest that her dissatisfaction isn’t deep enough to cause her to act. But she doesn’t get back with her husband either, or so it seems. If there is any tragedy here, maybe it’s the idea that later on in life we have lives that we find unsatisfactory but that we’re not prepared to do anything about them. Now that really is tragic.
I had hoped to see something resolved in the ending. Nick and Meg would re-unite or go their separate ways, but I felt I got neither. What I seemed to get was acceptance of the status quo and the fact that little, if anything, had changed as a result of their trip to Paris – other than the fact that they now know how bleak the future is.
Perhaps I expect too much from endings. As a man, ‘endings’ have other connotations, whereas for a woman, it’s all about process. I know that I get frustrated without an adequate ending. My daughter recently persuaded me to sit through two hours and forty minutes of The Hobbit (you’ll love it, Dad) only to find that it was the first in a three part series. I felt cheated and I was furious as I had no intention of watching parts two and three. I have given up watching Downton as I know it’s never going to end. I suspect that its interaction of plot and character are designed, not to draw out some moral lesson or show me something of the human condition, but rather to persuade me to watch yet another episode and I hate being played like that. The lack of an adequate ending in ‘Le Week-end’ did not make me feel played, but rather disappointed as I did actually want to know what happened to Nick and Meg (wonderfully acted by Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan).
So what does ‘Le Week-end’ tell us about being an old git? What message does it have for those of us of a certain age? The film has been described as ‘A fearlessly truthful tale of a crumbling marriage’ (Jenny McCartney, The Telegraph, 13 Oct 2013). I have to agree with that and you’re much more likely to leave the cinema feeling depressed rather than exhilarated. So perhaps the point of ‘Le Week-end’ is that, just like the film itself, we all come to a ‘weak end’. I’ll leave it there I think.