The old trope goes, “Why not allow gays to marry so they can be just as miserable as the rest of us?” As a society, we haven’t gotten to the point where we can look at a non-traditional couple and feel the need to comment, be that with scorn or adoration. Gay characters on television are still represented over 50% flamboyant comic-relief, and the revelation of a character as gay is still used as some sort of Shyamalanian twist. But we’re getting there. Even if the MPAA still treats gay sex as witchcraft and automatically bumps a film’s rating if two same-sex characters get down to some consensual, mutual spellcasting. Andrew Haigh’s Weekend is a huge step, in that it allows two gay men to come together in exactly the same kind of dreary, boring romance that we’ve come to appreciate in our indie drama. It’s about two notches above mumblecore, and the drama is so low-key that it’s easy to miss if you aren’t paying attention. Which you probably won’t be. For me, there’s nothing more boring than watching two people fall in love — straight or gay. I can appreciate there’s a lot of folks who will this film to be poetic and captivating. I can understand that. I loved films like Easier With Practice, Once, and Blue Valentine, which are all wistful romantic dramas. This one didn’t speak to me.
Weekend suffers from the same plight that many romances do in that there’s no way to describe it without sounding incredibly lame or cliched. Our hero is Russell (Tom Cullen), a lonely fella who’s never quite told his family and friends that he’s gay. He fakes his way through stag parties and social events, that kinda sad, vaguely bearded guy that you wonder why he’s never found a nice girl to settle down with. After one of the frat-tastic adventures, he heads out to a gay night club, where he meets and beds Glen (Chris New). And the rest of the film consists of Russell struggling with his own sexuality versus scenes of him and Glen engaged in some intense sexuality. That’s it. That’s the entire movie. Will they be a couple or won’t they? Will Russell finally come out or will it be too late? The ending is sweet and understated, but to get there, it’s a long, mopey, lazy slog.
Andrew Haigh’s been getting insane buzz for his film, particularly from festivals and critical circles, but when compared to the usual shoegazing blue-filtered dreck most of the indie dramas tend to be, when the actors actually look up and say I love you once in a while, it’s cinematic Robocop riding a unicorn on a rainbow. Cullen and New give effortless performances, but when the entire film’s script is basically “Fuck. Mope. Apologize. Walk Away in a Long Shot. Bathe. Repeat.” it’s not a difficult draw. I can’t even tell people that if you typically enjoy dreary romance to watch this, but it’s probably a safe bet. It’s odd that I didn’t enjoy this, because this is usually my wheelhouse. Yet, I hated Shame and Like Crazy this year for similar reasons — when your primary dramatic obstacle is your own sexual insecurity and can pretty much be cured by Cher from Moonstruck slapping you upside the head and shrieking, “Snap out of it!” — it doesn’t make for compelling cinema. And I’m beginning to suspect that when some of my female friends refer to a romance as “touching,” that just means there’s attractive full-frontal male nudity.
Some people’s boring is other folk’s beautiful, and I am perfectly willing to accept that I am deeply flawed when it comes to film romance. I thought Harold and Maude was a perfect film — right up until they decided to have sex. It was the loudest “wokka wokka” in film history and cheapened the beautiful relationship between them. Sacrilege, I know. So take my approbation of ignoring this with a grain of salt. I think if you’re a rainyday romantic, if you like your passion with a little pouting and angst, then give this a gander.