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‘Weekend’ is an epic work of beauty

Tom Cullen and Chris New in Weekend

Whenever I see a gay or other LGBT genre movie as strikingly good as Weekend, it makes me ponder gay cinema.

The dearth of good movies about gay people is palpable. I am reminded of this sad circumstance every week reviewing movies for an LGBT newspaper, and rarely do I get to write about a new movie featuring, let alone being led by, a gay, lesbian or transgender character. This is only the fourth time this year. Two films last winter were open for a total of two weeks combined; Gregg Araki’s Kaboom was barely watchable, while Xavier Dolan’s Heartbeats was stylish, brilliant and in French; but barely anyone knew that it was even at the theater. Beginners, Mike Mills’ beautiful meditation on love and loss, featured Christopher Plummer’s portrayal of a late-to-come-out gay man that will probably win him an Oscar.

But the main plot of Beginners revolved around a heterosexual romance, and even though it was marketed toward gays and lesbians, it felt like, as Brokeback Mountain and Milk did, a movie made for straight people. This isn’t a problem, of course, but as a gay man, it would be nice – actually, it is necessary, even imperative – to see my people and to see people like me on the screen. The lesbians have recently had this experience with The Kids Are Alright, but Weekend is the first movie since Brokeback Mountain that I’ve felt a part of. And better, Weekend is not about the closet or about secrets or the 1960s; it is about what it is like to be gay and in love now. It is an immediate, intimate and honest examination of love, sex and longing in 2011. It’s also gorgeously shot, sensitively acted and sexier than any gay or other LGBT film I can remember.

In some English city, Russell (Tom Cullen) leaves his straight best friend’s party a little early and heads to a gay bar, where he gets drunker and meets Glen (Chris New). They end up spending the weekend together, and the film follows their awkward small talk, their flirtations and revelations, their drug-fueled musings and arguments, their sex, what turns out to be the burgeoning of love and Glen’s revelation that he is moving to the United States on Sunday afternoon.

Glen works at a gallery and is more experienced, a bit arrogant and quick to quip, and he’s perhaps less mature, or at least more emotionally volatile, than Russell. They have a classic introvert-extrovert attraction. What a critic usually calls chemistry – the stuff Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan have, or Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall – is technically apparent, but the film is so naturalistic that it doesn’t seem as if Cullen and New are simply excellent, intuitive actors, but rather that Russell and Glen are falling in love.

Andrew Haigh’s sensitive direction and editing and Urszula Pontikos’s cinematography turn what is basically a two-person parlor play into an intense, almost epic work of beauty. It’s hard for me not to be hyperbolic in my love for Weekend, and in turn, I am irritated that it will be open for only one week in San Diego. Perhaps if we sell out the first weekend, Landmark Cinemas will find it in their hearts to keep the film around longer.

Kenny Wormald and Julianne Hough in this year’s Footloose.

also playing

Footloose

Kevin Bacon and Lori Singer star in Footloose (1984).

I saw Footloose in the theater when I was 10 years old, and I adored it. It’s hard to have a critical opinion of a film you saw and loved when you were a kid, but I do know that it’s a not a “good” movie. It’s no Saturday Night Fever. But it’s also not Stayin’ Alive either. Footloose had a simple teenage rebellion plot – It’s against the law to dance. Let’s dance anyway – but Kevin Bacon was charismatic, Lori Singer was a great small town seductress and the supporting cast of Chris Penn, Sarah Jessica Parker, John Lithgow and Diane Wiest were roundly excellent and believable. The film, as silly as it was in some places, had a gritty naturalism. It was directed by the great Herbert Ross, who also made The Turning Point and The Goodbye Girl.

I understand why in the era of Glee and So You Think You Can Dance someone would want to remake Footloose, but I do not understand why writer-director Craig Brewer would do a shot-for-shot recreation of the film, and only barely update the script. The new Footloose is not just unnecessary and undercooked, but at times, it’s just plain bad. The new leads were chosen for their dance abilities and not for their screen presence or acting chops. The Bacon role is now filled by handsome, snarky Kenny Wormald and the Singer role by Julianne Hough, who looks like a cross between Jennifer Anniston and Miley Cyrus. Both are clearly too old for the roles; Hough looks at least ten years older than a high school senior, though she’s only 23. And both are often awkward and unbelievable.

The dancing, however, is great; as athletic, enthusiastic and energetic as in the original. The only major update of the movie is the adding of both hip hop and country songs and moves to the repertoire. Some of the best known songs (“Footloose,” “Let’s Hear It For The Boy”) have been rerecorded by country artists, and for the most part these work well. But the tone is off. In the original, dancing was a metaphor for freedom from the constraints of the small town. In the new version, it’s just something to do on a Saturday night.

Editor’s note:

Update: Weekend will be playing at Landmark Hillcrest. For more info, go to their site for view times.



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Posted by LGBT Weekly on Oct 13, 2011. Filed under Movie Review. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

2 Comments for “‘Weekend’ is an epic work of beauty”

  1. [...] seen the best gay movie since Brokeback Mountain and it is Weekend. Here’s the link to my published review, and here’s the whole thing: Weekend Written and Directed by Andrew Haigh Starring Tom Cullen [...]

  2. [...] seen the best gay movie since Brokeback Mountain and it is Weekend. Here’s the link to my published review (which includes my Footloose review, too), and here’s the whole thing: Weekend Written and [...]

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