The Weekend

On the brink: The dinner party moves out onto the veranda ... and emotions get a bit closer to the surface (l to r: Harris, Duval, Rowlands, Conrad, Shields, Unger).
dir-scr Brian Skeet
with Gena Rowlands, Deborah Kara Unger, Brooke Shields, Jared Harris, James Duval, David Conrad, DB Sweeney, Gary Dourdan, Stewart Steinberg, Mina Bodie, Mitchel Mahoney, Michael Mahoney
Granada 00/UK-US 4 out of 5 stars
Review by Rich Cline
Adapted by British writer-director Skeet from Peter Cameron's novel, this literary film is an astute examination of relationships in all their forms as it throws its characters together for a very strained weekend in upstate New York. At the centre are Marian and John (Unger and Harris), new parents who invite old friend Lyle (Conrad) to their lakeside home on the anniversary of the death of John's brother Tony (Sweeney in some very effective flashbacks). Lyle was Tony's lover, and he brings with him his new boyfriend Robert (Duval), which sparks some uneasy memories and a revision of long-established friendships. Meanwhile, Marian has invited her friend Laura (Rowlands) over for dinner, but Laura has a surprise visitor: rebellious daughter Nina (Shields) with her married French boyfriend (Dourdan) in tow.

Beautifully written, directed and performed, this is one of those films in which you get what you want. It never tells you how to feel about the issues it raises; everything is dealt with an open hand. As all of the relationships unfold and develop over the course of about 24 hours, the film finds insight in the smallest exchanges of words and glances--attitudes conveyed through actions. Of course, this requires a first-rate cast, and all are up to the challenge, especially the always-terrific Rowlands. And Shields is superb too, looking wiry and edgy but masking a needy little girl underneath. It's a remarkably effective film that only occasionally dips into sentiment but more often surprises us with a difficult scene that highlights our own narrow-mindedness, selfishness or fear as we approach our family and friends ... and their friends. There is a slightly muted feel to the film, as the true emotions remain just below the surface and we never quite understand any of the characters. But for those of us who don't need films that have clear-cut answers to everything, this is a breath of fresh air!

[adult themes, language] 2.Apr.00
London L&G Film Festival Apr.00; US release 22.Nov.00

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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall