*** (out of four)
The romantic drama "Le Week-End" is uncomfortably perched between light entertainment and scarring drama. For Brits Nick (Jim Broadbent) and Meg (Lindsay Duncan), though, so is life. "This was your idea," she tells him after the spouses' effort to return to their honeymoon location gets off to a bumpy start. "How terrible to be in Paris," he responds.
The rest of the film from director Roger Michell ("Notting Hill," "Morning Glory") finds the pair alternating between brief moments of love rejuvenated and longer periods of resentment that threatens to consume them. "People don't change," Nick assures his wife. "They do," she says. "They can get worse." Many will compare "Le Week-End" to "Before Midnight" and see Nick and Meg as a future version of Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy). It's true that both chatty couples are somewhat unhappy and looking for signs of life, unsure whether it's under their nose or miles and miles away.
An important difference is Broadbent, whose presentation of dignity on the verge of destruction cuts harder than Hawke's chatterbox frustration. (I love "Before Sunrise" and "Before Sunset" and liked "Before Midnight," but Hawke rarely surprises anymore.) Unfortunately "Le Week-End" also addresses its characters' states of mind in very direct terms, with dialogue (Nick says both "I'm not sure enjoyment's really my thing" and "Love is the only interesting thing") more transparent than the layered people it comes from.
On the other hand, many of their interactions are beautiful, priceless encapsulations of the peculiarities that make up a personality. These two seemingly can't live with or without each other, and when Nick, unhappily attending a gathering at an old friend's (Jeff Goldblum), tells his wife, "I love you, Meg. Take that seriously," you can feel a marriage that's been on the rocks for a long time reaching a crossroad. Nick and Meg are one of many on-screen couples confronting different sexual needs (Nick calls Meg's genitalia "a closed book") and increasingly varied perceptions of happiness in the long term. If a movie flirts with brave insight and settles for sweet comfort, that's still plenty nice.
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