Written by: Heidi Shepler | March 11th, 2021
Long Weekend (Stephen Basilone, 2021) 3 out of 4 stars.
Writer/director Stephen Basilone’s debut feature film Long Weekend is a refreshing take on the romantic dramedy genre. Like 500 Days of Summer or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, there is a quiet, sensitive hero struggling with unfulfilled artistic ambition and an enigmatic woman who takes his life by storm. But any time the film begins to feel trite or dull, Basilone either gives us a deliberate course correction or throws in a plot twist.
We meet Bart, played by Finn Wittrock (Write When You Get Work), at a transitional period in his life. He’s been through a series of deeply traumatizing experiences that have left him with no job, no relationship, and needing to give up his apartment. He is sad and disappointed by the turn his life has taken, embarrassed to be living in his best friend’s garage and taking a menial job. But in a time when so many people are struggling with mental health, joblessness, and homelessness, Bart’s ability to get help when he’s in crisis and rebuild his life is deeply reassuring.
Enter Vienna, played by Zoe Chao (Almost Love). She’s no more in a place to begin a relationship than Bart, but neither of them can help themselves. They click together like two puzzle pieces. Their courtship is fun, flirtatious, and even childlike in its innocence and glee.
The conflict arises when Vienna refuses to say anything about herself. She evades questions, carries large stacks of cash, and has neither a phone nor a driver’s license. When she finally reveals her secret, it’s this revelation, rather than any interpersonal conflict, that drives the rest of the film. This allows for long, luxurious sequences where we just sit back and observe Bart and Vienna being a happy couple. They laugh and dance and cook dinner together, acting as if they don’t have a care in the world. Yet we’re left wondering, what’s going to happen? What are they going to do?
My only severe criticism of the film comes toward the end, when the conflict is seemingly resolved by a second major plot twist. This one actually is trite, and furthermore unnecessary because it doesn’t make narrative sense. It’s sad to see a deftly managed plot be damaged so much, especially since the twist itself has a major note of ableism.
Bart and Vienna spend much of their time together alone, in service of this second plot twist, which is a shame because the minor characters are great. Damon Wayans Jr. (Love, Guaranteed) is fantastic as the best friend who offers unwavering support and much-needed stability. And the criminally underused Wendi McLendon-Covey (Braking for Whales) plays Patricia, Bart’s beleaguered landlord. It would have been nice to see Vienna interact with these people, since it’s obvious how important they are to Bart, and because one of the themes of the film is that life is made up entirely of the connections you forge with others.
Long Weekend is very well worth a watch, in spite of that clunky twist near the end. The relationship between Bart and Vienna remains grounded even in the midst of all the surrounding questions. Even better, we’re able to empathize with Bart and Vienna equally, and the resolution of the film reassures us that no matter what, their love is real. And that’s what matters.