Much respect for writer-director Stephen Basilone for leaning into what any movie fan is thinking after our hero is bowled over by our bubbly heroine in “Long Weekend.”
“Are you REAL?” Bart (Finn Wittrock) wants to know of this Force of Nature named Vienna (Zoe Chao). “Or are you just one of those Manic Pixie Dream Girls?”
We’ve seen them in scads of films, some would say going all the way back to “Bringing Up Baby.” Think of Zoe Kazan in “Ruby Sparks” or “What If,” Kate Winslet in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” Zooey Deschanel in “(500) Days of Summer,” and pretty much everything else.
But that’s not Vienna. However downbeat Bart is, ignoring scores of increasingly urgent voice mails from his doctor’s office, downcast after a break-up, unemployed and abandoning his apartment, the young woman who awakens him after passing out drunk at a revival house cinema showing of “Being There,” however upbeat and forward this grinning “Hey, bud” young woman might be, asking if there’s a decent neighborhood bar and dropping straight into “OK, let’s go,” she’s got secrets and most importantly, agency.
Vienna takes the initiative. Vienna drives the plot. Vienna has a wad of cash, no ID, no cell phone and a lot of odd omissions from her life-experiences resume. “Bill & Ted?” “Sparklers?” And she’s not letting go of this pleasantly troubled guy. Not on your life.
Understandably, he’s just sober enough to have questions.
“Hey, you’re not a MENNONITE, are ya?” “Am I about to wake up in a bathtub missing a kidney?”
The whirlwind opening is the best part of “Long Weekend,” because it makes its case that these two are fated to pair up in a flash — they even have matching grins — because Wendi McClendon-Covey drops in and gets laughs as a landlady reluctant to let Bart go, and because Damon Wayans Jr. pops in for a quick overwhelmed-by-fatherhood best friend and gets to be funny for a change.
Once the film settles into its more conventionally unconventional story, Vienna’s “secret” explained, little bursts of “serious” and “the sads” slip in and it just doesn’t have the gravitas or plot twists to bear up under the weight of reality. Or unreality.
But the leads click, and the viewer is reminded that even if the culture wants to toss out “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” as a “sexist” and “limiting” concept, some “fantasy” in the minds of screenwriters, who are always looking for shortcuts to tidy up their character relationships (killing off parents in “romances” goes back 100 years), such pixies exist in nature.
And as in reality, the best part of the story of any such romance is that bowled-over introduction. It’s every complication that intrudes after that which becomes a drag, and becomes the part we forget or wish we could.
MPA Rating: R for language throughout.
Cast: Finn Wittrock, Zoe Chan, Damon Wayans Jr. and Wendi McClendon-Covey
Credits: Scripted and directed by Stephen Basilone. A Sony Pictures release.
Running time: 1:30