There's nothing wrong with going to the movies just to be swept up in a story, even when the story is fairly unrealistic. If that's your aim, The Longest Week might be a good way for you to spend about an hour and a half this weekend. The film, starring Jason Bateman, Olivia Wilde, and Billy Crudup, is an easy watch -- beautiful aesthetically and with enough borrowed themes and motifs to feel familiar. However, that familiarity also makes this movie, which is focused on romanticism but not romantic in the way you might expect, one of the least challenging movies to watch ever.
You hear that, 27 Dresses? Your spot's being blown up.
The Longest Week tells the story of rich playboy Conrad Valmont (Bateman), an heir to a hotel fortune. His neglecting parents decide to yank the cash umbilical and he's forced to move in with his only friend, Dylan (Crudup). Dylan's also rich, but the movie insists that he's rich because he earned it as an artist and he's a better man for it. Whether that's true, they both fall for the same girl, Beatrice (Wilde), an editorial model who is an accomplished pianist on the side and obsessed with Victorian literature. Not surprisingly, things get a little messy between the two friends and the girl.
The narrator, reminiscent of a Wes Anderson-style narrator, is incessantly popping in to explain the movie and why you shouldn't resent it or dismiss it. In one moment he explains that Beatrice is hopelessly romantic, while Conrad is romantically hopeless. At another time the narrator explains that love is like communism -- good in theory, but never quite works out. Did you just roll your eyes? Don't worry, you aren't alone there.
As the film self-analyzes via the narrator, it explains the overall message near to death and beating out any sense of nuance or subtly left. Worst of all, the introduction of Jenny Slate's character about mid-way through the film shows that it is a satire that takes itself entirely too seriously.
Slate's character is literally a post-modern critic in the film. As she analyzes the play that the group just saw, they all dismiss her critiques. She doesn't understand satire and neither do you if you don't like this movie or at least respect what it's doing. This is far from the only time the movie pretty much begs you not to criticize it by insisting critics are out of touch. In a time where satire is the new black online and on TV, seeing it in film isn't revolutionary so it better damned well be effective.
In moments, this movie is a lot of things: It's Wes Anderson's aesthetic without the charm, it strives to be Woody Allen's New York but without any realism, and it insists it is Oscar Wilde's satire but doesn't achieve the dialogue, message, or cleverness of the playwright. It claims to hate clichés while spouting them out. It's hopeless. It's romantic. But not in any way that makes the film or any of its characters likable.
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And for a film that's so clearly packaged, you don't really have to wonder how it will end. Regardless of whether Conrad gets the girl, he's changed and richer for the experience--which is good news because he was already monetarily wealthy. See? Easy.
If you're up for The Longest Week, it will be showing at Harkins Valley Art beginning at 7 p.m. Friday, September 5.