Fresh with master shots, sly camera movements and clever inserts of nostalgic items such as record players flush with witty conversations on the meaning of life, sex and relationships, Peter Glanz‘s The Longest Week wears its influences on its sleeve – Wes Anderson and Woody Allen are everywhere in this film. The economic status of the characters could easily lead us to the New York comedies of Whit Stillman (Metropolitan in particular – the Jane Austen chatter alone pushes this). With all that cinematic genius being channeled, as the title of this article asks, is this a good thing? Maybe, maybe not.
The Longest Week follows Conrad Valmont (Jason Bateman at his sassiest and most unlikeable since Juno) as a pampered rich man. For all intents and purposes, he’s still very much a boy, who wastes his days away with young girls, expensive drink and meals and trying to convince everyone that he’s working on a novel (“one of the great New York novels” like those of Fitzgerald and Wharton). When he finds out that his parents, in the midst of a surprise divorce, have cut him off leaving him with nothing, Conrad scrambles to figure out what to do. He leans on his artist friend Dylan Tate (Billy Crudup) for assistance all while keeping his financial situation a secret, but keeping up all appearances that his wealth is, indeed, intact. They both fall for the same woman, model Beatrice Fairbanks (Olivia Wilde) and when she picks Conrad, though Dylan doesn’t know, his world starts to unravel further, his egotism and poor choices finally catching up with him.
There were parts of this movie that I really enjoyed. The banter between Conrad and Dylan is so good, especially in the first 20 minutes of the film. I had great hopes for the rest of the film, but unfortunately the script is unable to support this initial level of humor for the duration of the film. Conrad is not a likeable character and I asked myself, why do we care about his “plight?” As someone who has never had his kind of money, he really just made me want to punch him (figuratively speaking, of course). Perhaps that was Glanz‘s intention. Do the events that occur throughout the almost 90 minutes of the film make us care about his “transformation” if one might even call it that? Once again, not sure. Sometimes it’s hard to separate the actor from the role, and I adore Jason Bateman, so I found myself at times rooting for Conrad, quickly having to reel that emotion back in. But with a cast like this, it begs me to ask why the director couldn’t do more with them. Jenny Slate who is so unbelievably fantastic in Obvious Child was wasted, her character a throwaway, brought in for a little color that really didn’t match the palette, so to speak. It’s great to see Billy Crudup again, I will admit. I wish he got better roles, because I think he’s got chops.
If intended as homage, then this film is certainly successful. Aside from the three cinematic giants, the dance sequence between Conrad and Beatrice immediately invoked the dance sequence in Jean-Luc Godard‘s Band of Outsiders (ahhh…Anna Karina). But with all of this homage-ing, one must ask, what of it is Glanz‘s? Slapping reference after reference to other filmmakers together doesn’t make a good film. It’s one of the biggest gripes I have with directors like Tarantino – just make a fucking film that’s yours without jerking off every director you’ve ever enjoyed. The absence of a voice that is Glanz‘s and Glanz‘s alone is what’s missing in this film. Despite this, I think he could have something that I want to see. His ability to create a compelling relationship between Conrad and Dylan is the prime example. I long to see what he could do with something along the lines of Bottle Rocket and hopefully that’s the direction he’ll go in the future.