The indie film scene is abundant in projects that fall through the cracks. Case in point: The Longest Week, Peter Glanz’s 2014 comedy of manners now streaming on Popflick. Film distribution failed to capitalize on audiences looking for comedies about genteel New Yorkers behaving romantically badly, and fans of the obvious creative influences working on writer-director Peter Glantz.
Conrad (Jason Bateman) is a moneyed dilettante in for a literal rude awakening. The 40-something writer wanna-be is in bed with occasional paramour Bunny (Laura Clery) when the concierge at his family’s stately New York hotel calls to inform him an eviction crew is on the way to the penthouse where he resides. His wealthy parents have decided to cut him off after decades of coddling. Conrad has neither income nor work skills, so he crashes at his best friend’s loft while lying about the reason. Dylan (Billy Crudup) is a self-made man, an artist in vogue, exhibiting his paintings in posh galleries. They could not be more different, except for sharing commitment issues. Dylan’s current girlfriend is Beatrice (Olivia Wilde), a demure model obsessed with Elizabethan literature. The three embark on a messy love triangle, the backbone of this romantic comedy, with a makeshift approach to building a fantasy of privilege.
New York State of Affairs: Bateman and Wilde go behind Crudup back in "The Longest Week" / Photo courtesy of YRF USA.
If Whit Stillman and Wes Anderson had a bastard child and he grew up to be a filmmaker, his movies would look like The Longest Week. This is a pillaging operation. From Stillman, we get the upper-class hyper-articulate characters bumbling through life. From Anderson, come the fastidiously composed shots turning almost every scene into tableaux. The similarities stop there. Glanz lacks Stillman's observational bite and mordant humor, and Anderson's melancholic contemplation of mortality and history. Detractors zero in on the most superficial aspects of their work, but the complaints are more fitting for this movie, a simulacrum of the real deal.
There is also a preoccupation with creating a romantic idea of New York that comes straight from the late sixties and seventies pop culture. You can see it in the wardrobe and production design choices; the lack of current technology - no cellphones, computers, or flatscreen TVs appears in sight. A few camera zooms take you back to the time when the visual flourish was new without screaming the date. The Longest Week may feel artificial, but it works as a poor cousin of The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), with a smaller cast and less budget to invest in production design.
You can feel the filmmakers milking resources like Conrad stifling the waiter at his favorite cafe. We follow Beatrice to a couple of fashion shoots happening in the same studio and with the same personnel. Dylan opens a new show with the same pictures from the first exhibition we see in the movie. The friends have two conversations while ogling at a teen girls' sports team playing in a park, which must have been recorded on the same day. It might seem petty to bring this up. After all, all professional productions do this. It is common practice.The thing is, you have to hide the strings. Otherwise, it becomes distracting if you notice it.
The Longest Week may be derivative, but it is not without its pleasures. Bateman excels at playing smarmy, self-satisfied characters, and Conrad fits right into his gallery. Crudup's role seems like a copy of Chris Eigeman in Barcelona (Stillman, 1994), both dueling displays of narcissistic, dysfunctional masculinity. It still is a delicious caricature. Bateman and Crudup have good chemistry, and you buy into the friendship.
Reading beauty: Wilde is a literary dream girl in "The Longest Week" / Photo courtesy of YRF USA.
We get a glimpse of Conrad’s mind in recurrent visits to his therapist Barry (Tony Roberts) - somehow, he can still afford to go, or perhaps, Barry takes him in as a charity case. It’s curious how failure at creative endeavors is a recurrent characteristic of conflicted male characters, transcending culture and nationality. Check out the French-New Zealand production Alice (Josephine Mackerras, 2021) now streaming on Popflick, wherea serial philanderer husband with failed writing aspirations is the villain. If your man tells you he has been working for years writing a novel, run for the hills.The Longest Week dramatic development hinges on Conrad manipulating everyone around him to protect his self-image, while bumbling towards barely enough self-knowledge to mature a little bit. A deus-ex-machina development restores order, giving the movie’s anti-hero a triumph of sorts.
Crudup is an actor so good that Hollywood never quite knew what to do with him. He gave a star-making performance as Olympic runner Steve Prefontaine in Without Limits (Robert Towne, 1998), one of two dueling biopics that did not quite live up to the hype in the late nineties - the other, Prefontaine (Steve James, 1997) served Jared Leto his first role post his breakthrough TV series My So-Called Life (1994-1995). Both petered out at the box office -.Crudup shined in Almost Famous (Cameron Crowe, 2002), which failed to earn him a much anticipated Oscar nomination. He courted the box office playing Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen (Zack Snyder, 2009), but mercifully, otherwise missed the train in the super-hero industry. I feel he does his best work in small, indie movies. My favorite films of his remain Jesus’ Son (Alison McLean, 1999), bringing to life Denis Johnson’s immortal junkie hero Fuckhead. You will be well served by watching his supporting turn in 20th Century Women (Mike Mills, 2016) as Annette Bening's sometime lover. The Longest Week reveals him as a sly comedian, and he almost walks away with the film.
Genteel New Yorkers in love: Crudup and Wilde fall for Bateman's machinations in "The Longest Week" / Photo courtesy of RYF USA.
The women are more interesting even if the screenplay reduces them to romantic pawns in Conrad’s machinations. Beatrice is a brainy variation of the dream girl, a model who loves to read. By now, Olivia Wilde has become something of an internet punching bag. Blame it on her the media focus on her personal life - a messy separation from actor Jason Sudeikis, followed by a very public relationship with musician Harry Styles - and the fraught production of Don’t Worry Darling (2022), her sophomore film as a director -. The Longest Week shows the performer unencumbered by the baggage of tabloid coverage and social media dragging. Jenny Slate steals all her scenes as Donna, Beatrice’s stand-offish best friend. 2014 also saw the premiere of Gillian Robespierre's Obvious Child, her breakout role.
If I digress too much, it is because the limitations of The Longest Week push you to it. It does enough to showcase the actors’ talent but stops there. So, your mind wanders to their work in other - better - movies. Still, it is an enjoyable, if unsubstantial lark.
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