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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A frustratingly mediocre drama, 28 Aug. 2012
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This review is from: Nights & Weekends [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
One of the forerunners of the 'Mumblecore' film movement, Joe Swanberg's movies are intimate, low-key and unafraid to tackle the serious issues of relationships head on - from adultery to manipulative sex, and to do so with an eye which refuses to shy away from the human body. In Swanberg's 'Alexander the Last', these matters were tackled with a warm, intimate charm, held together by Justin Rice's superb central performance. 'Nights and Weekends' has far less going for it. The film revolves around James (Joe Swanberg) and Mattie (an unsually irritating Greta Gerwig), a couple trying to make a long-distance relationship work. The film is split into two roughly even sections, the first in James' native Chicago, the second in Mattie's New York City. Whilst the film does provide a realistic depiction of a twentysomething relationship, the film is awkward in its attempts to be romantic, clunky when it tries its hand at comedy, and worst of all, the couple seem mismatched. Opposites may indeed attract, but the contrast between Swanberg's stable, loving James, and Gerwig's hyper-emotional, selfish Mattie, makes them seem rather unrealistic and wooden as a couple - something heightened by the fact that neither puts in a particularly strong performance, though Swanberg is the better of the two, here.

There are a few moments where 'Nights and Weekends' gets it right. Mattie's questioning of James' as to what story she would end up as in his life, were their relationship to fail, is a hugely poignant moment, and a reminder of how understatedly moving Swanberg's filmmaking can be, when it works. Later on in the film, Swanberg and Gerwig's script cleverly uses a photoshoot between the couple to highlight interesting ideas of artificiality and of stereotypical 'romantic' behaviour. It's frustrating to see these moments, in hindsight, because they remind the viewer how well Mumblecore cinema often delves into social and existential issues. It also ranks as the best acted scene in the film. Still, despite these few moments of quiet magic, 'Nights and Weekends' fails on the whole. Awash with needlessly dull dialogue (realism does not have to equal 'boring'!), often irrelevant nudity (though the film's final sex scene is nicely handled) and a lack of narrative vision. 'Nights and Weekends' is a film which never finds its feet, and whilst it isn't terrible, I would not recommend it to those other than ardent fans of Swanberg's work, or of Mumblecore cinema in general.
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