THE STORY – Bart’s (Finn Wittrock) chance encounter with the enigmatic Vienna (Zoë Chao) leads to a whirlwind weekend together. The two fall fast and hard, but both carry secrets that could be their undoing or the chance for a fresh start.
THE CAST – Finn Wittrock, Zoë Chao, Casey Wilson, Jim Rash & Damon Wayans Jr.
THE TEAM – Steve Basilone (Director/Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 91 Minutes
By Nicole Ackman
Romantic films often ask that we suspend our disbelief to watch a couple fall in love ridiculously fast or to excuse behavior that we would quickly point out as toxic in the real world. Writer and director Stephen Basilone’s “Long Weekend,” asks that we not only believe that a couple falls deeply in love over the course of a few days, but also throws some intense and jarring plot twists at its audience. Basilone has written for TV shows including “Community” and “The Goldbergs,” but “Long Weekend” marks his directorial debut. The film clearly comes from the heart, but the chemistry between its leads isn’t enough to save it.
Bart (Finn Wittrock) feels like his life is falling apart. He’s still recovering from a nervous breakdown that followed his mother’s passing and his fiancée leaving him. He’s skipping therapy appointments and drinking heavily and has to move in with his best friend, Doug (Damon Wayans Jr.), and his family when he can no longer afford his apartment. He’s taken a job as a copywriter for catalogs despite his real passion lying in creative writing (something that seems like it will be significant to the plot when it’s introduced, but strangely isn’t).
Bart first meets Vienna (Zoë Chao) when she wakes him up after he’s fallen asleep in the movie theatre. She almost immediately asks him to get drinks and they end up spending the evening together, going from bar to bar and trading sub-par impressions of actors. She’s good-natured and easily impressed by things and Chao’s nails being quirky-cute. Bart even asks her if she’s real or a “manic pixie dream girl.” The film largely depends on the pair having strong chemistry and luckily, they do.
Though Bart is falling head over heels for Vienna, he’s also a little suspicious of her. She has a large wad of cash but no ID or cell phone and there are hints that she’s hiding something. But the pair are so compatible that Bart decides to overlook it for as long as he can. It’s when he finally gets her to admit her secrets that things get weird, in a way that feels at odds with the more serious tone of the film.
The multiple big twists ask the audience to suspend their disbelief a bit too much for the film not to have a lighter tone. The dilemma at the crux of the film also feels too easily solved, especially if you don’t fully believe that anyone could fall that desperately in love within a few days. Though Bart and Vienna are sickeningly cute together (they are even literally cloud gazing at one point), the low-stakes setting of their connection doesn’t seem extreme enough to warrant their relationship.
As Bart’s friend, Doug, Wayans essentially is reprising his role of Coach from “New Girl.” Doug and his wife Rachel (Casey Wilson) are perhaps too exaggeratedly stereotypical as the cool, chill parents to their kids, who seem always to be running around creating chaos. But they also provide a voice of reason to Bart, insisting that a woman who doesn’t have a cell phone is an anomaly and reminding him of the importance of stepping in to help someone who is in a difficult place mentally like they did for him.
The film is admirable because it advocates for the importance of seeking help for those going through something difficult emotionally or mentally. And yet, its messaging around mental health feels a little muddled. Some will find “Long Weekend” too sappy and focused on its positive message (and yes, I have a difficult time when couples say, “I love you” after only a few days).
At 91 minutes long, the film doesn’t overstay its welcome. But it packs a lot into that time, from tons of movie references to lots of messaging around how sometimes something happens just when we need it to. The performances of the two leads, particularly Wittrock, elevate the film and it’s enjoyable enough based on their charm alone. But “Long Weekend” doesn’t know how to balance its wild plot twists with its more realistic approach.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – Finn Wittrock and Zoë Chao’s charming performances and great chemistry are able to largely carry the movie.
THE BAD – Multiple outlandish plot twists clash with the movie’s fairly serious and sappy tone.
THE FINAL SCORE – 4/10