Amos Lassen | Little Rock, Arkansas | 02/22/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
Amos Lassen and Cinema Pride
Grief is a process and it takes time to play itself out naturally--there is no formula for it. In "The Weekend", we focus on a group of people somewhere in upper New York who come together to mourn Tony, who was lost to AIDS a year before the movie begins.
Tony's half brother John (Jared Harris) and his wife, Marian (Deborah Kara Unger) are experiencing a chill in their marriage. Marian has bouts with deep depression and even though they are parents, the child has not brought them together. On the weekend in which the film takes place, they are being visited by Tony's former lover, Lyle (David Conrad) who has brought along his new boyfriend Robert (James Duval), a young painter. They have gathered for a memorial service for Tony.
Across the lake, Laura (the fabulous Gena Rowlands), a wealthy widow is shocked by the unexpected visit from her rebellious daughter Nina (Brooke Shields), an actress who has brought with her Thierry (Gary Dourdan), a black man from Paris. The reunion of mother and daughter heightens their differences and shows their inability to love one another.
The two go to visit at John and Marian's house for a dinner party and what transpires between the guests is highly influenced by the fact that Tony is no longer with them. John and Marian almost lose control of their marriage and her friendship with Lyle is starting to suffer as well. Lyle's relationship with Robert is put into jeopardy and what this movie shows is that grief cannot be healed by just the passage of time. It is loyalty to life that brings solace and renewal and this, we learn, is something that is very hard to cultivate.
This is a difficult movie. Once you overcome the self-obsession of the characters however, the rewards that can be gained are remarkable. It is a beautifully photographed ensemble piece about a group of people who happen to be tangentially connected and who clash during a very emotional weekend.
There are numerous conflicts and tensions between the characters and the minor explosion that takes place at the dinner party is what brings about all that happens. Some of the dialog at the beginning seems pretentious and false and everyone seems to speaking in little above a whisper. When this seems like you cannot take another minute of it, the movie takes on revelation and becomes poignant.
This is an actor's film. Unger's soulful performance is at the center. She seems melancholic and unpleasant and it is hard to side with a character that wallows in self-pity and self-obsession. Brooke Shields
also shines after a hard start.
Much like "The Big Chill" but more profound in its subtlety and revelations, the movie gets going after a very slow start. These are not the kinds of people that you would want as friends but they have many important things to say and do so with style. Sometimes we just never know how to react during a time of grief. The movie can help us understand it and ourselves as well.