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An honest film about baby boomers getting old

Le Week-End

Directed by Roger Michell

Opens March 28 at the Charles Theatre

As the Genre of movies

about old people

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produces increasingly juvenile plots, a new entry,

Le Week-End

, stands out as a grown-up film. Our protagonists, grizzled Nick (Jim Broadbent) and elegantly lined Meg (Lindsay Duncan), do display some of the vigor and grit that seem to be the hallmark of aging baby-boomer films: They chase each other through an empty hotel restaurant, dodging chairs and swerving around tables, prompting the stare of a young busboy; they exchange unmitigated barbs about each other's bodies and about sex; they kiss passionately in the street. But they also show their age. At one point, Nick topples onto a cobblestone street and falls hard on his knee. He stays there, wincing in pain for a few movie minutes.

Nick and Meg play a long-married British couple, both scholars-though it's explicit that Nick is a seasoned professor while Meg only refers to herself as a teacher. Nick's treating Meg to a weekend-long sojourn to Paris for their anniversary, but you wouldn't know it by how she acts, berating Nick for the simplest things, like forgetting where he's stashed the euros on his person or for picking a hotel with beige paint on the walls. His every overture at romance is met with an eye roll or a sigh. After she storms out of the aforementioned hotel, Meg commandeers the decision-making and directs a cabbie to take them on a tour of Paris and then to a ritzy hotel with red awnings over wrought-iron balconies. The choice of lodgings clearly outstrips their budget, but Nick gives in, handing Meg the credit card. Their suite looks out at the Eiffel Tower.

It quickly becomes evident that Nick feels rather sex-starved, and he paws at Meg very cautiously, only to be shut down continuously. Hours after they check in, after a tense Champagne toast on the balcony, they're resting in the shade of their room, on the bed. Nick broaches the topic of sex, and Meg spurns the advance unequivocally, saying she didn't come to Paris to see his "partially erect sausage." She stands up and walks away. Mind you, this is where they honeymooned.

Meg veers between almost militantly cold and quietly affectionate. After she basically knocks Nick over in Montmartre for trying to grab her ass, she sidles up to him in the street and allows him to hold her hand. The rest of the afternoon unfolds relatively peacefully, with the pair strolling from bistro to bistro, vetting each one as a lunch option. It's a rare scene in

Le Week-End

that allows us to breathe easy and enjoy the couple's trip. They stop outside of restaurants to examine the menus, commenting to each other "too empty," "too touristy." The sequence is as real as the couple's strained relationship but it's not aggressive or heavy-handed, as some other scenes can be.

In time we receive a partial explanation of why Meg's character seems so brutal and fed-up, and Nick, for his part, is shaded in as well. He's lost his job at the university for telling off a student, and he ponders exactly how he squandered all his potential. While Meg sleeps in the hotel bed, he gets drunk on the minibar's wares and listens to Nick Drake and Bob Dylan on his iPod. He stares out at Paris almost woefully, eliciting our sympathy.

Duncan and Broadbent are skillful actors and it's pleasurable to see so much of them (but not in

that

way), but the film-and their weekend-can begin to feel a little claustrophobic: The setting here may be Paris but the persistent misery can obscure the view. We've all but accepted that this and only this is what we'll be watching when all of sudden a gregarious Jeff Goldblum appears, completely jolting us out of our argument-induced daze.

Director Roger Michell (

Hyde Park on Hudson

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,

Notting Hill

) and writer Hanif Kureishi show awareness in realizing the audience needs an outside representative to check the excessive intimacy on display in

Le Week-End

. Once Goldblum arrives and invites Nick and Meg into his world, the film gains enough traction to steer itself toward a conclusion. In that way, it recalls a trip one might take with a significant other: You spend the drive together, the meals together, the nights together, the sightseeing, everything-and there's nothing quite so welcome as a friendly stranger on the next barstool to break up the monotony of each other.

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