D: Peter Glanz / 86m
Cast: Jason Bateman, Olivia Wilde, Billy Crudup, Jenny Slate, Tony Roberts, Barry Primus, Laura Clery
Conrad Valmont (Bateman) is a man in his early forties who has never had a job, lives in a hotel apartment owned by his wealthy parents (who he hasn’t seen in years), and who has few real friends. He sees a therapist, Barry (Roberts) on a regular basis but pays little heed to what Barry advises him. When his parents split up, neither one of them wants the responsibility of continuing to pay his allowance, so one day Conrad is told by the hotel management that he’s being evicted. On the subway, travelling to a friend’s, Conrad sees a young woman (Wilde) he finds himself attracted to, and even though they only exchange looks, she gives him her phone number.
Conrad arrives at his friend’s apartment, but lies about the eviction, and tells his friend, Dylan (Crudup), that his suite is being redecorated. Dylan welcomes him in, and later they attend a party where Dylan introduces Conrad to the woman he’s currently dating; it’s the woman on the subway, and her name is Beatrice. There’s clearly an attraction between Conrad and Beatrice, and it’s something Dylan is afraid of. He tells his friend repeatedly not to try anything with her. Conrad agrees to stay away from Beatrice, but he reneges on the agreement straight away and starts seeing Beatrice behind Dylan’s back.
The three of them – plus a date for Conrad, Jocelyn (Slate) – go out for the evening, but the two couples pair off, leaving Dylan with Jocelyn, and Conrad with Beatrice. Conrad tells Dylan he’s seeing Beatrice and Dylan throws him out. He goes to stay with Beatrice but keeps quiet about his circumstances. The couple go to see a theatre performance but Conrad inexplicably leaves Beatrice on her own; later that same evening, he sees her and Dylan in a cafe together. An argument leads to Conrad telling Beatrice he’s homeless and broke. They break up but not before Beatrice reveals the reason she and Dylan met up that night.
Leaving Beatrice’s, Conrad is knocked off his scooter by a truck; he suffers minor injuries. He tries to get back with Beatrice, and rebuild his friendship with Dylan, but there’s a twist in store for him, one that will change things for the better and for good.
With the look and feel of a sophisticated romantic comedy, The Longest Week is a movie that does its best to appear artless and affecting, but which ends up being a bit of a hard slog to get through. With such a narcissistic main character, Peter Glanz’s debut feature struggles to involve its audience in Conrad’s efforts to win the heart of the fair Beatrice, and makes him largely unsympathetic throughout. His privileged existence is portrayed as a fait accompli, an unfortunate outcome from his parents’ continual travelling abroad. Cocooned in his suite, Conrad has little idea of how to engage with “real” people, even his trusted chauffeur, Bernard (Primus). When he’s evicted – and later, when he tries to sneak back in with Beatrice in tow – his world view remains the same, and his sense of entitlement is rarely compromised. With such a closed off, selfish main character, the movie is at an immediate disadvantage: it makes it very hard to like him.
As portrayed by Bateman, Conrad is an arrogant martinet, a slightly jaded rich kid who’s never really grown up. Bateman is good in the role, but he still has to try hard to make Conrad likeable, and – thanks to Glanz’s script – he doesn’t always succeed. He gives a mannered performance that highlights Conrad’s sense of entitlement, while at the same time, doing his best to redeem the character by the movie’s end. It’s too much for the actor to achieve under ordinary circumstances, but with The Longest Week having the look and the feel of a Wes Anderson project (with extra added nods to Woody Allen), it’s a performance that feels incomplete, as if Bateman was given a character study that was missing a vital page in the middle.
Wilde and Crudup hold their own, but their characters aren’t very well defined. Beatrice is close to being a cipher, a woman who exists (within the script) to justify Conrad’s gradual change in the way he sees the world. The change is minimal, though, and undermines the preceding ninety minutes, leaving the viewer wondering if the storyline was adequately transcribed to screen. For a character’s story arc to have such little effect, and promote such little change, makes for an uncomfortable movie, and an equally uncomfortable viewing experience. It’s not Bateman’s fault, though: he does his best with a script that settles for enigmatic instead of decisive.
Glanz directs with confidence but it’s in service to a script that’s as lightweight as a feather and he seeks to add depth and meaning at every turn, but without success. Sometimes arch, but mostly forgettable, the movie has little that’s new to say about relationships and keeps its comedy locked up except for “special” occasions.
Rating: 4/10 – lifeless and uninvolving for long stretches, The Longest Week is a romantic comedy where both elements don’t quite connect; with characters that are hard to care about, it’s a movie that’s as shallow as its main protagonist.