The indie movies industry is abundant in projects that fall through the cracks. Case in point: The Longest Week, Peter Glanz’s 2014 comedy of manners, is 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 set for a rude awakening. The 40-something wanna-be writer 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 his penthouse. 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 and lies about the reason. Dylan (Billy Crudup) is a self-made man, an artist 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 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. Any alert movie buff will recognize this is a pillaging operation. From Stillman, we get the upper-class hyper-articulate characters bumbling through life. The fastidiously composed shots came from Anderson. The similarities to those distinctive directors stop there. Glanz lacks Stillman's observational bite, mordant humor, and Anderson's feel for 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 appear. A few camera zooms take you back to 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, where a philandering husband with failed writing aspirations is the villain. If your boyfriend tells you he has been working for years writing a novel, run for the hills. The Longest Week's dramatic development depends on Conrad manipulating everyone around him to protect his self-image, stumbling towards barely enough self-knowledge. A deus-ex-machina development restores order, giving the movie's anti-hero a triumph of sorts.
Crudup is so good that Hollywood never 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 - the other, Prefontaine (Steve James, 1997) served Jared Leto his first role after 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 film remains 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.
When Conrad (Jason Bateman) is kicked out and cut off at the age of forty, he crashes with his only friend (Billy Crudup) and falls in love with his friend's girlfriend (Olivia Wilde).Stream Now
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