Thursday, October 13, 2011

Gay Romantic Film "Weekend" Offers Nothing New

Mark and I made a special trip to one of our favorite movie houses, The Music Box, last Sunday night to be sure not to miss "Weekend".  The film promised to be a contemporary story about two young men who fall in love and have a life-changing weekend together. A few of the reviews were rapturous.

Maybe we're so starved for realistic screen depictions of gay life, that we gladly support any little film that comes our way.  And a film like "Weekend" does deserve a vote of confidence for trying to fill a void. It's earnest, and sincere...but unfortunately, a little bit flat and empty.

Russell (Tom Cullen) picks up Glen (Chris New) in a London bar, and they go back to Russell's apartment for a one-night stand.  Russell is a lifeguard who is struggling with the closet; Glen is an artist and activist on his way to America to live openly.  The two have sex, drink a lot, take drugs, talk about nothing in particular, have more sex, drink, and finally, after about an hour's running time, have one heated and interesting conversation, before a tearful, embraceable farewell at a train station, filmed in an effective slow zoom-in.

That is about all.

Say what you will about the documentary-feel, and the almost improvisatory unfolding of action (minimal) and dialog, "Weekend" has almost nothing new to say.  Even though the actors are natural in their roles, there's little for them to do, and not much at stake.  There's a general ennui hanging over the film, and an aura of self-importance that keeps it firmly in adolescent territory with mere pretensions to exploring more mature themes about gay life. 

I had high hopes for this film, and as it meandered on to a fairly gripping final twenty minutes, I felt all the more disappointed at the tiredness of what came before.  When the first couple left the theater after about 30 minutes, I was surprised. When the second couple got up and walked out 15 minutes later, I wasn't.

"Weekend" also suffered from some of the worst sound recording I have ever encountered in a professional movie, independent or otherwise. I would think that director Andrew Haigh's experience as an assistant film editor on films like "Gladiator" and "Black Hawk Down" would make him sensitive to the importance of crisp sound in a film that depends so much on dialog and relatively little on visuals or cutting. 

The argument between Russell and Glen toward the end of their weekend, when they confront their falling in love (or not), the meaning of their lives, and their difference of opinion about things as fundamental as marriage and coming out, seemed like the only bit of dialogue that was really thought-out or significant.  Glen's idea that he could live openly in the United States felt more naive than we had come to expect from this character. Maybe the script contained idealistic notions about "liberal" America, or perhaps the script was written before Prop. 8 was passed in California.  Either way, despite its quaintness there were real emotions and real issues in this scene.

Don't get me wrong, I love cerebral films, and action is not always my cup of tea.  But  "Weekend" might have benefited from a little more activity and a lot fewer banal ideas and cliched self-reflection. 

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