Friday, April 24, 2015

The Longest Week (2014) [PG-13] ***

A film review by Justin Lowe for on Sept. 1, 2014.

The familiar tribulations of wealthy white New Yorkers become the target of half-hearted, self-regarding social commentary in The Longest Week, a blithely derivative romantic comedy that isn’t without a certain smug charm. Video on Demand specialist Gravitas Ventures will give the film upcoming releases both in theaters and on-demand, where its recognizable casting is likely to achieve the most impact.

A frequent, insufferably omniscient voiceover (by Larry Pine) introduces luxury hotel heir Conrad Valmont (Jason Bateman), who’s pushing 40 and has made a vocation of being unemployed his entire life. Valmont experiences an unwelcome wake-up call, however, when he’s unceremoniously cut off by his divorcing parents and summarily evicted from New York’s Hotel Valmont, where he’s lived for decades. With his expense accounts frozen, he’s forced to move in with his well-off painter friend Dylan (Billy Crudup), although he keeps his precarious financial status to himself, explaining rather that his hotel suite is under renovation. Dylan immediately begins enthusiastically telling Conrad about Beatrice (Olivia Wilde), an attractive young model with a taste for Victorian literature, whom he’s recently met.

Then, when Dylan introduced him to Beatrice, Conrad realizes she’s the same mysterious woman he met on the subway the previous day, and who gave him her phone number. Although he promises Dylan not to interfere with his friend’s pursuit of Beatrice, Conrad sets up a date with her anyway and they quickly become lovers. When Dylan discovers this betrayal, he naturally kicks Conrad out of his place. Now homeless, Conrad moves in with Beatrice, who’s still unaware that his parents have disinherited him. It won’t be long before this is also exposed as well, and Conrad will face a reckoning that may finally force him to take responsibility for his rather inconsequential life.

Writer-director Peter Glanz’s A Relationship in Four Days, a short film selection at Sundance and Cannes, serves as the basis for his debut feature, which freely references the work of various auteurs ranging from Godard to Woody Allen. Valmont similarly aspires to follow in the steps of highly regarded novelists, but since he’s lazy and not particularly talented, his book project has been languishing for a decade. Bateman readily grasps the minor conflicts inherent in Valmont’s lifestyle, but he’s less successful at articulating his major life crises. In part this is due to Glanz’s preference for consigning major plot and character developments to the narrator for novelistic voiceover description, so that these key story points often occur off-screen or during insignificant transitional scenes.

Styled like a New York version of Anna Karenina, Wilde would fare better if the film were a more even-handed two-hander, but caught between the affections of competing men with very similar characteristics, Beatrice remains incompletely articulated. Crudup’s Dylan could also have benefited from clearer delineation and more definitive conflicts with Valmont to achieve a degree of character differentiation that’s often lacking.

As either romantic comedy or late-life coming-of-age material, the film’s arc falls short of the transformative experiences typical of these genres, although Glanz’s mildly amusing tone remains appealingly lighthearted throughout. [Lowe’s rating: ** ½ out of 5 stars]

Blogger's comment: If you're a fan of highly stylized films with voice-over narration, like Wes Anderson's work (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Moonrise Kingdom) and you enjoy watching the three leads (Crudup, Bateman, Wilde) then you will likely enjoy The Longest Week. Otherwise... probably not.

Labels: comedy, drama, romance

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