Fairness demands that I record, with slack-jawed amazement, the near-universal acclaim this film has received from English critics; honesty requires me to say I loathed almost every frame.
The week-end of the title (so punctuated because it's French) is a 30th-wedding anniversary trip to Paris undertaken by Birmingham couple Nick (Broadbent) and Meg (Duncan). He's booked them in to the hotel they spent their honeymoon at but she objects, on arrival, to the beige colour scheme and they wander the streets before booking into the presidential suite at a five-star joint.
Yes, she is demanding. She's also brittle, flaky, bristly, impetuous, neurotic, self-pitying and whiny. She is also, when push comes to shove, incomprehensibly cruel to Nick, who, to make matters worse, seems to lap it up.
It gives nothing away to say that Nick and Meg are at a crossroads: he's been discreetly sacked from his job at a second-rate university for making what we will later learn was a patronising, sexist and racist remark (though we're invited to chortle, "This is political correctness gone mad"); she wants to pack in teaching to "learn Italian [and] dance tango". Their sexless, joyless marriage is heading for the rocks.
So they spend their time in Paris feeling sorry for themselves, breaking the monotony by doing a runner from an expensive restaurant and running up a hotel bill they know they can't afford (behaviour that we are also implicitly asked to applaud).
The film's lurching faux-verite documentary style makes dialogue in exterior scenes inaudibly mixed, although that may be a problem only with the screener I watched. But the script (by Hanif Kureishi, who seems to be taking revenge on the English) is full of narrative non-sequiturs (an accusation of infidelity comes out of left field); meaningless lines ("I've decided to give up everything I like," Nick says at one point) and exchanges of cod philosophy. The appearance of Jeff Goldblum as a successful academic who was once a student of Nick's fires things up a bit. He's a hideous stereotype but at least there's some life in him.
But the entire project founders on the resolution (yep, you guessed it), which seeks to draw emotional capital from an empty account. I felt like screaming at them to do themselves and us a favour by divorcing. No such luck: instead, Michell pinches the dance scene from Godard's Band of Outsiders. What a nerve.
Jim Broadbent, Lindsay Duncan, Jeff Goldblum
M (offensive language, sexual references and drug use)