Dangerously close to being too quirky and whimsical, but fans of Woody Allen, Whit Stillman, and Wes Anderson will get a kick out of it.
Jason Bateman is Conrad Valmont, a man who is very rich and very bored, living off of his parents’ wealth in an affluent part of New York. Conrad dresses exquisitely, as does everyone else in the film, and he speaks in that droll Jason Bateman way, as does everyone else in the film, and he has a quirky sense of humour, as does everyone else in the film, and he finds it hard to commit to love, as does… wait a moment, I see a pattern here.
Despite the best intentions from writer and director Peter Glanz, his debut feature film The Longest Week, like its central characters, lacks a true identity of its own and suffers early on from only serving to remind us of the greatness of the films and directors it is clearly indebted to. Homage or inspiration is one thing, and many (if not all) the great directors I could list take their inspiration from others, but what separates the great from the grating is how they make their films unmistakeably their own.
The Longest Week is like watching someone make a student film with access to a decent budget, high production value, and famous faces, but from a film maker who has yet to find or discover his own visual style, hoping that presenting an, admittedly, perfectly fine film will be enough. And yes, this film is fine in a way vanilla is a fine ice cream flavour, but when you’re constantly reminded that you’ve seen this all before (or tasted better flavours to keep my ice cream analogy) it’s difficult to sustain interest.
Glanz copies everyone from Woody Allen (rich neurotic New Yorkers), to Whit Stillman (young, highly intelligent, unlucky in love, social climbers), to Wes Anderson (symmetrical framing, overly quirky nuances, voice over) but never makes their trademark directorial styles his own, and has little to offer in his film other than demonstrating a good knack for imitation. The Longest Week, even at 86 minutes, has little going for it in terms of story, characterisation, and originality to warrant comparison to those directors mentioned here, and I wonder what the point of making the film really was? It’s not strong enough to stand on its own as a great debut picture and a sign of intent from Glanz, and I struggle to see what he could offer next as director if all his time has been spent on making a love letter to better film makers; yet, despite these criticisms I cannot deny that Glanz’ film isn’t without a certain charm and the likes of Jason Bateman, Olivia Wilde, and Billy Crudup do work well in small pictures like this where they are less dependent on playing ‘to type’.
All three look great in the film, embracing the quirkiness and millimetre-perfect framing in which Glanz frames them, safe in the knowledge of what type of movie the director is trying to make. Perhaps they’ll never get to work with an Allen, Anderson, or Stillman, so this is the next best thing. Moreover, the dialogue is delivered well and does consistently amuse despite the sameness of it all, but at least it’s clean and doesn’t rely on swearing and crudeness to paper over the cracks of there being nothing amusing to say. The film has its heart in the right place, and that in itself is something I can rarely say about many films today.
Verdict: The Longest Week will be ignored when it’s released in cinemas and I suspect it’ll reach only a small audience on video on demand because it simply doesn’t offer a potential audience anything new, yet what it does offer is a perfectly fine way to pass the time. Not a huge compliment, but a slight recommended watch nonetheless.