Take a Drink: during each ode to other directors
Take a Drink: anytime a character smokes
Take a Drink: anytime a character takes one
Do a Shot: for each subversive moment
By: Matt Conway (Three Beers) –
One of the truly unappreciated actors in Hollywood today is Jason Bateman. Bateman has shown that he is a guy with a great deal of talent and charm, yet it seems like he has struggled a bit to find roles that fit his talent. Bateman was fantastic in his role on Arrested Development, and his dead-pan humor and likability made him a great solid center to the crazy Bluth group. Yet, since his time on television, he has mostly struggled to find great roles.
Sure, there are some exceptions like side roles in Juno and the underrated Disconnect, but Bateman’s most mainstream work has been mixed. Many are big fans of Horrible Bosses, but to me it’s just mediocre, and Bateman really does not have much to do in the film. Other successful films like Identity Thief, Couples Retreat, and Hancock have hit with audiences, yet Bateman is mostly relegated to being a dull straight man in these films. While Bateman’s latest, The Longest Week, is not the best film he has been in, it’s certainly an admirable effort that lets Bateman shine.
Based on a short story, The Longest Week follows the affluent yet lost Conrad Valmont, who within one week loses his fortune, yet begins to find himself in the world without his wealth.
As I mentioned, this is really Jason Bateman’s movie, as he is in basically every scene. Bateman for the most part is playing an arrogant affluent character who finds himself as the film goes along. However, even when he is a bit of a dick, Bateman is undeniably charming, and is still likable even though his character has a lot of bad qualities. Bateaman also does a great job of not making his character a Scrooge McDuck character, instead making his character grounded in reality and not exaggerated. As he grows, it’s easy to understand why Bateman was what he was beforehand, and his closure is surprisingly heartfelt.
The rest of the supporting cast is also quite good. Billy Crudup is always someone that has been placed on underrated actor lists, and for good reason. Here he is given a somewhat one-dimensional character, but still has a great deal of charm and a good chemistry with Bateman. Olivia Wilde also is not appreciated enough for her acting abilities, yet does a good job here.
The script has quite a few clever bits of dialogue. Written by Peter Glanz, who was the original writer of the short story, he has a great feel for dialogue, as there are several nuggets of gold here. Glanz uses a lot of subversive comedy, with the film fully knowing what elements it is sharing with other famous flicks. Thankfully, these subversive bits are actually quite clever, and written in a way that does not make the film look snobby. The script also includes quite a few dramatic scenes as Conrad grows, and a lot of these scenes are actually quite effective.
Also directing the film is Glanz, and here is the aspect of the film that people are having a lot of problems with. Glanz uses a lot of different techniques that remind you of other directors. In a lot of ways, I’d call this film a mixture between Wes Anderson and Woody Allen. There are quite a few stylish, particularly well-framed scenes here that are an ode to Anderson, and also the hands-off dialogue-heavy scenes you’d expect from an Allen flick. To me, a lot of these call backs to other directors are done respectfully, yet there are still a few issues with the direction.
Just hearing that the film is a mixture of Anderson and Allen’s style could raise a lot of eyebrows, and the mixture does not always work. The two are drastically different stylistically, which makes some of these scenes that situate these drastic styles back to back a bit jarring and overwhelming. Both are clever and well-done tributes in a lot of ways, but mixed together, they are not very cohesive.
In a lot of ways, I wished that Glanz developed a bit more of his own voice as a director. The script features such sharp dialogue and such an interesting perspective that I would have liked to see Glanz tap into more of his own personality and create a directorial voice more accurate to his perspective.
As I mentioned when discussing the supporting actors, the characters outside of Conrad are lacking depth. Both Crudup and Wilde in a lot of ways play types, and compared to how much Conrad grows in the film, it’s a letdown that their characters do not have any room to grow. Crudup’s character Dylan Tate in particular could have been such a great character, yet Glanz’s script never gives him much growth.
There are also some minor quips I have with the film. Jenny Slate is truly hilarious and in a lot of ways being marketed as a big part of the film, yet has maybe two scenes in it. A waste of a great talent for sure. Also, the film, even at its 84 minute running time, still feels a bit long, as at times it seems to be stretching towards the final act with some filler scenes.
The Longest Weekend is a flawed, yet funny and charming comedy featuring a great Jason Bateman performance and some surprisingly heartfelt moments. It certainly is not worthy of the dreadful reviews the film is receiving.