The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


The Longest Week

Remember the slew of pale Quentin Tarantino imitations that cropped up after Pulp Fiction? So many filmmakers tried to copy his style, and none of them came anywhere close. The Longest Week is the first – or at least the most shamelessly blatant - Wes Anderson imitation I've seen. You know from the opening credits, which have large-letter titles superimposed over top of quaint little tchotchkes. This is a movie where people use rotary telephones, reel-to-reel tape recorders, and old-fashioned dictation machines. Shots are composed with uniformity, so that whatever we're supposed to focus on is directly in the middle of the frame, while the things on the left and right sides balance out. You know that old expression “If it looks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, then it must be a duck?” Well,The Longest Week looks like a Wes Anderson film, and it quacks like a Wes Anderson film, but it most definitely is not a Wes Anderson film.

Jason Bateman plays Conrad Valmont, the son of a wealthy couple who own the elite Manhattan Hotel. Conrad, an author, is supposedly working on a new book, but then again, he's been working on it for years. When his folks get tired of footing the bill, he is ejected from the hotel and cut off from his inheritance. For help and support, he goes to best friend Dylan Tate (Billy Crudup). Dylan's life, in contrast, seems to be going great, especially since he's dating the irresistibly sexy Beatrice (Olivia Wilde). But Conrad is attracted to Beatrice, too, and begins seeing her behind Dylan's back, despite the fact that they've tried to fix him up with her friend Jocelyn (Jenny Slate). Does she really love him? Does he really love her? Either way, Beatrice is all Conrad has at this point, and he's desperate to hold on to her, loyalty to his friend be damned.

For a movie filled with actors it's impossible not to love, The Longest Week is really, really difficult to get wrapped up in. That's because of the Wes Anderson factor. Writer/director Peter Glanz' continual, transparent attempts to mimic the Moonrise Kingdom filmmaker's style are distracting. Almost every single element in the production design has an overly self-conscious feel to it. The movie also keeps halting its own story to allow for non sequitur narration or forced bits of attention-seeking quirkiness. The narration by Larry Pine (a veteran of several Anderson pictures) is especially grating, as it provides irrelevant details about Conrad and Beatrice, thereby precluding us from getting to know them via the performances. Show, not tell, says the old maxim.

The result of all this mimicry is that you never care about what happens to anybody. How can you, when The Longest Week is far more interested in displaying its affectations than in simply telling the story? Bateman and Wilde are two of the most likable, interesting actors working today. They aren't afraid to go for outrageous laughs, and they have a shared skill in finding humanity amid the humor. Both are essentially repressed here, never given the room to do their thing. While they are trying to create three-dimensional characters, Glanz is attempting to bowl you over with the requisite slow-motion shot or dazzle you with empty dialogue that's straining to be witty.

I would like to see the normal version of The Longest Week - the version that just tells the tale straight, without the Anderson-ian pretensions. Bateman, Wilde, Crudup, and Slate are up to it. They are interesting enough that we don't need all the other stuff. I've mentioned Wes Anderson seven times so far in this review. That's because the movie's attempt to create its own version of his unique magic is the thing that ultimately kills it. If you want a Wes Anderson movie, go watch any of his works; they're all fantastic. The Longest Week is just a pretender that wastes a brilliant cast.

( 1/2 out of four)

The Longest Week is rated PG-13 for sexual content and smoking. The running time is 1 hour and 26 minutes.

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