Film Reviews

The Longest Week Peter Glanz

Rating - 4/10

Oh, what a disappointment this movie is.  Jason Bateman has quietly become one of the most talented comedic actors working today, springing out of Arrested Development fully formed and holding his own with the funniest guys in the room.  He's coming off a great performance in Bad Words and has an easy confidence on screen that is tremendously appealing.  Working alongside him are Billy Crudup, who I recently saw transform himself into a cockney Brit on Broadway in Harold Pinter's No Man's Land, and the lovely Olivia Wilde, who is also surprising with her ability to not take herself and her looks too seriously.  Rounding out the cast is Jenny Slate who I have no opinion about, not having seen her recent critical triumph Obvious Child, though I remain skeptical because here she failed to impress.  But the main performers are charming and committed to the characters and the words they speak, and hence it's sad because the material and the treatment lets them down.  


At the end of the film, spoiler alert, a critic refers to our protagonist's (Conrad Valmont) novel as derivative and sophomoric, and you have to wonder if director Peter Glanz completely missed the irony of that line, since this is one of the more sophomoric and certainly the most derivative film I've seen in a long while.  Its borrowing from other films and filmmakers goes beyond mere allusion into the territory of sheer rip-off.  Right from the get-go, the title sequence, with its symmetric framing, equally spaced edits, shots of typewriters and turntables from directly above, shots of paintings, books, yaaaaaaahhh!!!!!  The co-opting of Wes Anderson is already making you want to file a class action suit for copyright infringement.  Only the jazzy score seems like it’s not Anderson's style.  No, that was taken from Woody Allen.  For the remaining 80 minutes or so, Glanz cycles back and forth between the two, stopping only briefly to lift from Godard for a cafe dance sequence.  There's even a bemused narrator and title cards for chrissakes!  Oh, and the titles are in French - isn't that precious?  It doesn't end there.  There are quick zooms in mid shot; Tony Roberts plays an analyst (two for the price of one); line delivery is uniformly deadpan; there are meandering strolls in Central Park, or by the river overlooking the New York skyline; everyone is an artist or is concerned solely with art; French pop and pre-bop jazz plays on the soundtrack; Valmont uses a vintage tape recorder to make "notes to self"; there's a shot of two people standing in front of a painting discussing its meaning; and a sudden shift in tone from comic to tragic and right back again; and so on.  If you're a fan of either Woody or Wes you know where all this stuff is coming from – I really don’t need to go through a scene by scene comparison with The Royal Tenenbaums, Annie Hall, Manhattan, Play it Again, Sam, etc.  Oh yeah, there's also a brief discussion of Victorian literature pulled right out of Whit Stillman's Metropolitan.  I was really rooting for the film to pull itself out of this referential muck up to this point, but this was a bridge too far. 


I think most people are susceptible to the charms of homage, and I’m no different.  Certainly Anderson and Allen are no strangers to the practice, borrowing subtly or overtly from Truffaut and Chaplin, Godard and Bergman.  But they bring a wit and intelligence to it that makes it new.  Even as blatant a wholesale lift as the baby carriage/train station scene was in De Palma’s Untouchables, from Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin of course, it was executed with such verve and with such a deft feeling for sustained tension that all you could do was smile.  In The Longest Week you are constantly reminded how all these tricks and tropes are executed better by the originals. And trying to appear urbanely witty in a New York romantic comedy is a perilous practice, setting up the movie for failure before it has begun. 


The sad thing is you feel with this much talent at play, not to mention delicious cinematography by Ben Kutchins and production design by Rick Butler, that this movie could have been so much better.  You want to say to Glanz, “go back, drop the references and imitations, and start over”.  He might actually come back with something unique and all his own – and something far more enjoyable.