Monday, January 23, 2012

Review: Weekend

Dir. Andrew Haigh
Country: UK
Aus Rating: MA15+
Running Time: 97mins

The mechanics of a one-night stand are explored in Weekend, the engaging sophomore feature of Andrew Haigh. Where this low budget British feature differs from the majority of films with similar premises is that both parties involved are men. However, to simply call it “a gay movie” would commit it a great disservice as the fragmented kaleidoscope of fleeting romantic pains and pleasures should resonate with gay and straight audiences in equal measure. Haigh and his lead actors, the superb Tom Cullen and Chris New, have created a richly textured navigation of modern day romance that never fails to pull powerful, human emotions out of its minimal, boutique setup.

Read the rest at Trespass Mag

A film that only grows in memory as time goes by, I really do hope Weekend finds some ounce of success at the Australian box office. Doubtful, but I hope so. The success of the film was only strengthened by a recent watch of Thomas Bezucha's Big Eden. Released in 2000, this film was naturally acclaimed by gay audiences, but I couldn't help but find the film a somewhat bizarre and deflating sit. I was initially impressed by the mere fact that it looked like it was filmed using a real cinematographer with an actual camera that cost money - what a novel idea - and that the music wasn't bouncy, pseudo porn soundtrack music, but real music that sounded like it was recorded in a studio with instruments. As nice as it was to see a gay romance storyline play out between actors like Arye Gross and Eric Schweig, hardly the typical romantic leads you'll find in gay or straight cinema, the film gives way to unrealistic and cliched plotting that becomes increasingly tiresome. There are characters here that could have been taken in some really interesting directions, but Bezucha, who also wrote the screenplay, lays the sweetness and light on thick with a trowel. As gorgeous as the scenery is, the action going on around it is rather colourless. The ending of Weekend could easily been a horribly cliched affair, but it's played so modestly and with utter realism that they get away with it. Yet, in Big Eden, it's hard not to chuckle when a characters makes the mad dash to the airport to stop the other one leaving. The floorboards creak as it lumbers about its familiar plot developments, whereas Weekend dances and weaves, using our familiarity with the genre tropes as a base to explore the inner turmoils of these characters. They were clearly going for something less artificial than, for example, Eating Out or Another Gay Movie, so why stifle that with cliche and quirk?

Also, while it's not like I think every film with gay characters set in Smalltown, USA should be Boys Don't Cry, I did feel that it was somewhat insensitive in it's naivety to make the town of Big Eden so comfortable with its lead's sexuality. Not one moment of conflict arises out of the situation and as lovely as it would be to live in a world where that is the case, it's just not the case and I found the film's reluctance to even broach the subject somewhat confounding. Big Eden coasts on little more than the belief that audiences - especially an audience made up predominantly of gay men - will want little more from a film than to see two men fall for each other and live happily ever after. Consider Weekend again and think about how much, even if you disliked them, we got to learn about these two men. They had real histories with problems both large and small, their personalities are so clearly defined that their growing romance appears more natural and realistic. There is so little of that in Big Eden as everyone acts like movie characters dealing only with big, cinematic dramas that can be written as easily and broadly as possible (dying dads! coming out! etc!)

Of course, I did enjoy seeing Tim DeKay without a shirt on though and we all know that's one of the most important factors in judging a piece of gay cinema, right?

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It's just a shame his character, by far the most interesting and complex of the lot, was shafted for Schweig whose idea of playing a shy character is to make them as boring and transparent as possible. Ah well. Weekend: A-, but a rewatch will probably shuck away any niggles I had and I'll have to bump it up. Big Eden: C

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