Le Week-End

Love runs deep, but not smoothly, in “Le Week-End,” a thoughtful and emotional comedy-drama about the strains of a decades-long marriage.

Nick (Jim Broadbent) and Meg (Lindsay Duncan), of Birmingham, England, are celebrating their 30th anniversary with a trip to Paris. The trip is something the couple really can’t afford, but they do it anyway.

When they see the crappy hotel Nick has booked, Meg decides instead to splurge by getting a suite at the Plaza — and putting it on their credit card.

Meg and Nick proceed to have a good time, seeing the sights and enjoying the food. But something’s weighing on Nick, and at dinner he tells Meg what it is: He’s been forced to take early retirement at the college where he teaches after insulting a black student.

As the weekend continues, in this precise screenplay by Hanif Kureishi (“My Beautiful Laundrette”), the conversations reveal Meg’s frustration and Nick’s insecurity. But before they can deal with those issues, they run into an old college chum of Nick’s, Morgan, who has found publishing success and a new marriage with a Parisian.

Morgan is played by Jeff Goldblum, and his oddly elliptical acting style throws a wild card into the film. Morgan becomes the alternate-universe version of Meg and Nick’s faltering marriage — the writer who found professional success but ran away from his first wife.

Director Roger Michell (who collaborated with Kureishi on the Peter O’Toole vehicle “Venus”) lets Meg and Nick’s problems — and their underlying affection — unfold naturally, gracefully, over the eventful weekend. He also harks back to the French New Wave (with references to Godard’s “Bande à part”) to embody the couple’s youthful ambitions and their nostalgia for an earlier Paris.

Broadbent (“Moulin Rouge,” “Cloud Atlas”) takes his usual professorial bluster and turns it inward as Nick confronts the limitations of his ’60s idealism. Duncan (“About Time”) matches Broadbent well, showing both the fatigue of a long marriage and the sexual spark of a woman who’s not ready to call it quits. Together, they make “Le Week-End” a trip worth savoring.

-SEAN P. MEANS, THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE
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