Twee romance with a clever twist


Running time: 91 minutes. Rated R (language throughout). In theaters.

Is there anything more annoying than a cutesy new couple? The coo-ing, the nicknames, the tunnel vision, the dumb smiles. Insufferable! 

A movie about one such cloying pair, “Long Weekend,” is nearly derailed by lovey-dovey irksomeness, but it’s rescued by a clever twist. 

The Los Angeles lovebirds, Bart (Finn Wittrock) and Vienna (Zoë Chao), meet at a movie theater after a showing of the old film “Being There.” He downed too much whiskey — a good half a handle, sheesh — and dozed off.

She wakes him up, introduces herself, and soon they’re off to a cocktail bar. Exactly what Bart needs.

Over drinks, we learn that writer-director Stephen Basilone has little flair for dialogue.

“Are you, like, one of those… what do you call ‘em? Manic pixie dream girls?,” says Bart. This is a question that nobody would ever really ask.

Vienna then replies with another: “Am I here to save you? Is that it?” 

Adding to nausea, the film they saw, “Being There,” is about an average man named Chauncey Gardiner who is repeatedly in the right place at the right time. A tad on-the-nose, that.

Then, after knowing each other for only a day or two, Bart and Vienna fall madly in love and incessantly call each other “buddy.” I winced every single time.

It gets better. Vienna is mysterious. She casually lugs around tens of thousands of dollars in cash and doesn’t own a cellphone. She can’t say specifically where she’s from or offer any details about her family. 

The movie improves immeasurably when Vienna finally reveals her true identity, and the info is not at all what you expect it to be.

Bart (Finn Wittrock) and Vienna (Zoe Chao) get cosy in a photo booth on their fateful first date in "Long Weekend."
Bart (Finn Wittrock) and Vienna (Zoë Chao) get cozy in a photo booth on their fateful first date in “Long Weekend.”
©Sony Pictures/Courtesy Everett

But the dropped bomb only brings on more questions from us — as well as a hefty helping of doubt. It’s very easy to confuse a crazy Californian for a charming one, after all. Basilone’s movie becomes an intriguing puzzle that frequently bugs you, but you’re nonetheless determined to make it to the end.

As “Long Weekend” goes on, we learn about Bart’s struggles with mental health and a difficult past relationship. He’s forced to live with his friend Doug (Damon Wayans Jr.) and his family. Wittrock exudes a classic American pain that he showed us in “Death of a Salesman” and “The Glass Menagerie” on Broadway, and that depth makes the bad flirting and date nights go down easier.

Chao, on the other hand, acts like a weird wheatgrass-juice guzzling hippie. While there is a good reason for why she seems a bit off, the character is nonetheless difficult to like. That’s partly because it’s a performance that so desperately craves being liked.

Basilone’s ending is deeply satisfying, though, and comes together in a sharply plotted, moving way.

Now if only they didn’t say “buddy” so damn much. Blech.



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