The Longest Week is the feature debut of writer-director Peter Glanz, and Los Angeles-based production company, YRF Entertainment. It was adapted from Glanz’s black-and-white short, A Relationship in Four Days, which premiered to modest acclaim at Sundance in 2008. As is often the case when a heralded short is expanded to feature-length, much more is lost than is gained in Glanz’s freshman effort.
In the film, Conrad Valmont (Jason Bateman) struts around as a product of his privileged New York environment. From his therapist-since-childhood’s chair, he basks in high-minded lethargy as he references George Bernard Shaw. Having spent his formative years in upper-crust private schools, Valmont knows how to say things like “I feel like Napoleon after Waterloo, dying in exile on the coast of St. Helena.” And he’s a middle-aged adult in the 21st century, so he’s been trained to label all forms of internal repression as “Freudian.” He’s in the gathering stage of his sophomore novel, a stage now rounding 10 years. (That his freshman effort was never finished is all the more reason to not rush, lest the second fall victim to the pitfalls of the first.)
Following the unanticipated divorce of his parents, Conrad has his bank accounts frozen and is evicted from his family’s Valmont Hotel, leading him to seek shelter with longtime friend and “antisocial socialist, closet conversationalist,” Dylan Tate (Billy Crudup). Soon, Conrad strikes up an affair with Dylan’s model/bookworm/cat-eyed sweetheart, Beatrice Fairbanks (Olivia Wilde), in one of the more effeminate displays of girlfriend swiping. She likes the way he looks at her, and he likes the way she bites her lip before she starts playing the piano.
In its best moments, The Longest Week is a comedy, but those moments are obscured by waves of stuffy historical references (“You have the moral code of a Bolshevik!”) and truisms. The script is so shameless that out the gate there’s a temptation to consider The Longest Week satire, but then come obvious lines like “Conrad often became attached to the idea of something, and not the actual thing itself,” and “There was one thing that rendered them incompatible … she was a hopeless romantic, and he was romantically hopeless!”
In one tell-all scene, we have Dylan and Beatrice’s friend, Jocelyn (Jenny Slate), opining about a play the gang had just seen. Dylan declares the play a satire, to which Jocelyn responds, “I didn’t get that at all.”
Self-referential winks are all well and good, but this thematic exchange is a bit too on the nose. It doesn’t ring satirical; it rings impatient.
Throughout the film, the writing is heady but heartless, as if Glanz means to occupy the intellectual high ground by exploiting tired romantic clichés and passing off his finger pointing as evidence of self-righteousness.
Ultimately, it’s The Longest Week’s lack of substance that galls the most, especially given the quality of other aspects of the film. Glanz wears the sources of his cinematic inspiration on his sleeve, with the dressed-up disharmony, statuesque and attentive symmetry and distinct color palettes that screams Wes Anderson (as do title cards and a narrator). As for tone and overall feel, Glanz has noted the influence of Woody Allen’s Manhattan on A Relationship in Four Days and by extension, the feature version. Both make use of old-timey Sunday jazz, long shots of park benches, and a character trying to contend with unfounded self-importance based only in privilege and directionless deprecation. The cinematography is gorgeous, and the performances are funny and mischievous but classy and understated. (I did have trouble shaking off the “Bluth” from Bateman’s performance, but that’s not really his fault.)
Still, I’ll leave the final word on The Longest Week to the Woody Allen film that inspired it: “It’s worse than not insightful—it’s not funny.”
Director: Peter Glanz
Writer: Peter Glanz
Starring: Jason Bateman, Olivia Wilde, Billy Crudup, Jenny Slate
Release Date: Sept. 5, 2014