Le Week-End (15, 93 mins)
Le Week-End (15, 93 mins)
Director: Roger Michell
Imagine if you will a fourth instalment of Richard Linklater's "Before" series, only this time we're 20 years further down the line, and Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy have been replaced by a middle-aged British couple on the brink of divorce.
That's the basic setup for Le Week-End, Notting Hill director Roger Michell's drama with a typically barbed screenplay by Hanif Kureishi.
Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan are Nick and Meg, a sixtyish husband and wife spending a weekend in Paris to celebrate their anniversary, and keen to return to the places they went on their honeymoon 30 years earlier, only to spend the time largely bickering and fighting.
It's certainly styled like a French movie, in that nothing really happens for long periods, but it also aims for Linklater's technique of walk and talk, walk and talk. The trick with that though lay in our engagement with the characters played by Hawke and Delpy, our interest in what they had to say, and our desire to see them succeed in their relationship.
But Nick and Meg just aren't very pleasant people to be around. You could argue that you don't need to like them to respond to their situation, and there's certainly little room for sentiment, which is generally a good thing. But it leaves an aftertaste, like Woody Allen can when he's at his most misanthropic.
Yet they're also perfectly capable of seeming like a loving couple when the film calls for it, and in that way it's an accurate reflection of how emotions can change in the blink of an eye. Or perhaps the film is just unable to make up its mind about the state of their relationship, which is up and down from scene to scene, in ways that can seem haphazard; one minute it's Before Sunrise, the next it's The War of the Roses.
Nick and Meg also have a penchant for running around behaving disgracefully, which we're supposed to respond to because of their mature years. But watching them sneaking out of expensive restaurants without paying or vandalising their hotel room isn't cute or funny, it's just sad.
But when it comes to the question of the performances of the two leads there's little to fault, and Broadbent and Duncan are unquestionably excellent.
They have a natural and unforced way with each other, whether they're laughing or fighting, and they're entirely believable as a long-married couple. Jeff Goldblum pops up after a while as an old Cambridge friend of Nick's, and he pretty much does what Jeff Goldblum does.
And for all that Le Week-End may provoke irritation, it's most certainly not without moments of truth and insight. In particular, in the way in which Nick begins to address and face his regrets and bitterness, it finally arrives somewhere profound, but getting there means travelling a wearying and jagged road.
See it if you liked: Before Sunset, Before Midnight, 2 Days in Paris
Not Another Happy Ending (12A, 102 mins)
Director: John McKay
The current resurgence of Scottish cinema comes skidding to an undignified halt with this dismal little romantic comedy set in Glasgow.
Doctor Who's Karen Gillan plays Jane, a writer who found some success with her first novel, but struggles with writer's block when it comes to getting her second finished, mainly because of her aversion to her obnoxious publisher (Stanley Weber).
As per the rom-com formula, the pair must be thrust together so they can fall for each other, but this is executed in such a daft and misguided way that the results are really quite irksome from the get-go.
It almost goes without saying that none of it is amusing in the slightest, but its failure stems primarily from the complete lack of believability in the characters, which of course stems from the poor quality of the writing - rom-coms require a certain suspension of disbelief, sure, but this is just nonsense.
Gillan is peppy enough, even if her main piece of characterisation is her hats, but Weber is honkingly miscast and flounders badly. There's no reason in the world his character has to be French, and the fact he is just adds another layer of distance between the characters and the audience.
In the credit column, Glasgow looks quite lovely, and we get to see locations that don't normally pop up, outwith the usual West End travelogue spots. Unfortunately that's all desperate straw-clutching because, in every other regard, Not Another Happy Ending is dreadful.
See it if you liked: The Decoy Bride, One Day, Ruby Sparks