LONG WEEKEND (2021)
Starring Finn Wittrock, Zoë Chao, Damon Wayans Jr., Casey Wilson, Jim Rash, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Ellison Randell, Carter Morgan, Dylan Wittrock, Deanna Barillari, Andrew Secunda, Haley Rawson, Cyrina Fiallo, Amber Crews, Gia Galardi and the voices of Jennifer Irwin, Jess Jacobs and Steve Basilone.
Screenplay by Steve Basilone.
Directed by Steve Basilone.
Distributed by Stage 6 Films. 91 minutes. Rated R.
Despite his all-American boy next door good looks, Finn Wittrock has made a career out of playing people who are more than a little bit off, mentally. His mental state is much more controlled in Long Weekend than… say… his breakout role in American Horror Story: Freak Show. His personality is not quite as oily as he was as Judy Garland’s ex in Judy. However, his character of Bart here is still at a physical and mental crossroads.
We don’t know exactly what is going on in Bart’s life in Long Weekend, but the signs are there that he is heading for a crash. He is ducking repeated calls from his doctor (we don’t know what kind of doctor at first, but it turns out to be a psychiatrist) and his ex-girlfriend. He is still devastated by the breakup, as well as his mother’s recent death from cancer.
He’s moving out of his nice apartment with the ex to take a place in the garage of his best friend (Damon Wayans, Jr.) and his wife (Casey Wilson). He seems to have given up on his dream of be a writer to take a dead-end job writing catalogue copy that even the guy who hires him tells him he is way over-qualified for.
And he decides to spend the afternoon alone at an LA revival theater, watching Peter Sellers’ Being There (nice choice) while drinking himself into a stupor in the dark.
It is at that theater where he meets Vienna (Zoë Chao), a cute and sweet young lady who wakes him at the end of the movie when he has passed out. She starts talking with him, not the least bit concerned that he is day-drinking and appears kind of out of it.
They start to chat and decide to get a drink together at a local bar. That drink leads to more, that bar leads to more as well. They start to chat and learn more about each other, feeling a definite attraction forming. Soon they have spent almost the entire day together.
Of course, there are some red flags about Vienna. She has no ID. She carries tens of thousands of dollars in her backpack. She has no cell phone. (She gives a slightly lame excuse on that one, claiming she just recently broke it.) She only gives rather vague, tossed-off answers to any personal questions – like where she is from and what she does for a living. (One answer is essentially she lives up north, the other is that she works for the government.) Then she tends to change the subject.
In other ways Vienna appears to be perfect – pretty, sweet, cute, open and available – the human embodiment of the old art-house indie film trope of the manic pixie dream girl. (Think a young Zooey Deschanel at her most adorkable.) In fact, Long Weekend is self-aware… or at least self-conscious… enough that Bart at one point even asks her is she is one, actually using the term and everything.
When she does finally explain herself, the film suddenly takes a quick little trip into sci-fi territory, an unexpected story leap that this charming romance never quite recovers from.
I have been debating whether or not to reveal the sci-fi twist, because honestly it feels like a bit of a spoiler to me. However, it’s sort of hard to discuss Long Weekend without revealing it, because it is a huge part of the plot. Also, looking at other reviews of the film, most of them discuss it, so I suppose that I will, too.
However, if you are looking to come into the film completely surprised, skip the next few paragraphs. Or don’t finish the story until after you have watched the film. We’ll wait.
Okay, only people willing to know a bit of what happens left? Good. So, it turns out that Vienna says she is visiting from the future. Now this is not a world-changing Terminator-type of time traveler, and it’s not from the horribly distant future. She has just come back thirty-some years. Her “government job” is a bureaucratic position in the NSA, which has recently (and mostly covertly) discovered the secret of time travel and uses it to make small tweaks in reality which may nudge history in the right direction.
She is not trying to make any serious changes. In fact, she has gone a bit rogue, going back without clearing it with anyone. Her mother has serious cancer – much like Bart’s had died from – and they can’t afford the medical bills. Therefore she has come up with a scheme to go back in time, buy some stocks, stick them in a safe-deposit box and reap the rewards when she gets back to her own time.
Bart thinks her story is crazy, although he wants to believe her. (In fact, the way he sort of does come to believe her is way too trusting.) His friends think her story is crazy. Vienna knows her story is crazy. The audience thinks her story is kind of crazy. Even the film itself knows her story is kind of crazy. They add on lots of alternatives. Could he be crazy? Could she not be real? Could it all be a hallucination? Could it have to do with the meds he’s taking for his depression, or his drinking, or even an undiagnosed medical condition?
Okay, the spoiler-averse readers can rejoin the party.
The fact is, one way or another, the sudden twist adds very little to the film – with the exception of a slightly predictable twist ending. It was working just fine as a romantic comedy without the complication. For the most part it continues on pace as an interesting character study of two bruised humans finding compassion and hope in each other’s company. The sci-fi twist throws a monkey wrench in the relationship, but it does not really change the basic dynamic of that relationship, nor does it really change the tone of the movie.
It feels like an unnecessary complication, honestly.
Still, Long Weekend is a sweet look at two lost souls finding each other, whether you believe in the high concept twist or not. Like its two lead characters, the movie is flawed but it is basically likable, well-intentioned and good company.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2021 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: May 25, 2021.