Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 18, 2015)
For today’s Adventure in Indie Movies, we go to 2014’s The Longest Week. Even as he nears his forties, Conrad Valmont leads a privileged, aimless life due to the support of his wealthy parents. When they split, they also decide to cut off Conrad’s massive allowance – and they also throw him out of the family-owned hotel where he spent most of his life.
Conrad doesn’t believe this will turn into a long-term issue, so he tries to go about life as usual, though he does find himself on the New York subway. There he meets lovely Beatrice Fairbanks (Olivia Wilde) and he manages to get her contact information.
Complication: Conrad’s best pal Dylan Tate (Billy Crudup) already sort of dates Beatrice. This leads to a messy love triangle that Conrad needs to deal with as he also sorts out other aspects of his life.
In the movie’s very first scene, we see Conrad with his therapist. Tony Roberts plays the psychiatrist, and I suspect his presence doesn’t come as a coincidence, as Roberts remains best-known for his work in Woody Allen efforts like Annie Hall. It seems clear writer/director Peter Glanz cast Roberts to consciously evoke Allen, and other “Woody-isms” manifest themselves as well. From the less than natural dialogue to the focus on the idle rich to the jazz score, the nods toward Allen seem less like “homage” and more like “blatant rip-off”.
Though one shouldn’t accuse Glanz of simply imitating Allen, as that sells the writer/director short. Glanz also demonstrates a substantial Wes Anderson influence in Week, as he gives the movie the stiff, “staged” visual/narrative feel typical of that director. The “Allen-isms” dominate, but Glanz makes sure he steals from additional sources as well.
I could live with how blatantly Glanz wears his influences on his sleeve if the end product didn’t seem so contrived and absurd. At times I entertained the notion that Glanz wanted to parody the Allen/Anderson school, and that remains possible.
God, I hope that’s the case, because if Glanz wants us to take this as anything other than a spoof of Allen/Anderson, he fails – and he fails miserably. Week comes across as a self-conscious rip-off without much cleverness, wit or charm.
Granted, the lesser works of Anderson and Allen can suffer from those tendencies, so it’s not like those directors’ filmographies emerge unscathed. Unfortunately, as this represents Glanz’s feature debut, we can’t give him the benefit of the doubt based on prior glories, so we’re left with Week as our sole impression of the writer/director.
It’s not pretty. Actually, Week is a pretty film, as it combines Allen’s love for New York with Anderson’s visual precision to create a movie with consistently gorgeous photography. If you watch Week with no sound, you’ll probably really like it.
Alas, if you find yourself stuck with its artificial dialogue and nattering nincompoops, you’ll likely come away with a much less positive impression of the movie. Making the lives of pretentious, wealthy society types interesting doesn’t happen easily, and Glanz can’t do it. The characters here come across as self-obsessed poseurs with few – in any – likable traits. I wouldn’t want to spend 15 minutes at a party with these people, much less watch a movie about them – a movie in which I’m ultimately supposed to care about them.
The casting doesn’t help, especially in the case of Bateman. Usually engaging, he’s much better as introverted, put-upon characters with some form of “everyman” to them – in other words, the opposite of the arrogant, smug Conrad. From minute one, Bateman feels wrong for the part, and that never changes.
Not that I think any other actor could’ve done much with the role, as the film’s stilted writing and contrived situations leave The Longest Week> as a persistent dud. This is the kind of film that thinks referring to a character as an “anti-social Socialist” qualifies as bright and smart. Ugh.