I don't often write criticism, especially on films, but this exception has to be made. Not only is "Last Weekend" one of the best films I've seen in a very long time, but I'm appalled to see that it has received poor reviews. This speaks volumes about those who review films these days and very little about this fantastic movie by writer and director Tom Dolby.
It feels intellectually snobby of me to suggest that the problem is our shallow contemporary culture, but I can't help but feel that this is the issue to some extent. When reading the review by Peter Sobczynski on RogerEbert.com, I have to question his interpretation of this film. Did he understand it at all? One of this reviewer's chief complaints about the film is that it doesn't provide us with a good reason for watching, an "answer" as to why the film might be important. This, of course, is precisely what makes the film a contemporary masterpiece. There is no real answer or ending, and yet, it's not one of those films that has no ending to try and prove something - think French cinema.
This review goes on to criticize the film for being "top heavy" in characters. Seriously? Have things become so bad that we cannot handle a cast of eight characters? These criticisms are superficial and shallow. As I said, revealing ignorance on the part of the reviewer more than uncovering any verifiable weaknesses in the film.
Yes, this film is complex. Yes, this film requires intellect and some brain power to understand and enjoy. Yes, you might have to lay off the maryjane while watching. How terrible that someone attempted to make art and a movie all at once. The casting was superb with Patricia Clarkson and Devon Graye easily outshining the rest. Clarkson is nothing short of a genius in this role. Graye's unspoken acting is subtle and yet powerful and natural. And, indeed, he is the "unknown prince" of the film, as revealed by his shower scene where he bellows out a tear-jerking rendition of Nessun dorma.
In precis, Last Weekend is a highly successful attempt to put a little slice of life onto the big screen. Life doesn't have neat plots with easily understood themes or a simple casts of characters. Life is complex and beautiful and unknowable. This film not only captures that, but it does so better than any film in recent memory.
The interplay between the rich and not so rich is fresh in this film. It is an age old literary conflict, but is often overdone - not here. The fragility of life and the power of nostalgia is also present in subtle and beautiful ways. The dialogue is authentic and this lends credibility to the themes which the film takes on. In all, it is a well-written screenplay.
Good cinema is not for the masses, like good poetry or good wine. The success of Reader's Digest and American beer are a testament to this certainty. Therefore, I am not surprised that this film didn't have wide appeal. That doesn't mean, however, that it is no good. Indeed it is good, better than good. Last Weekend is real cinema.
So, if you have a brain, can handle more than four characters in a cast, and don't need someone to write an ending on the wall for you, give Last Weekend a shot. You might be pleasantly surprised. I know I was.
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