Long Weekend Synopsis: Bart’s (Finn Wittrock) chance encounter with the enigmatic Vienna (Zoe Chao) leads to a whirlwind weekend together. The two fall fast and hard, but both carry secrets that could be their undoing or the chance for a fresh start.
With Netflix monopolizing the romantic comedy marketplace, the genre’s confectionary joys have seemingly faded away from the big screen. I’ve grown to miss these wistfully sweet movies, as the simple pleasure of seeing two stars connect often manifests into a heart-tugging experience. Even the bad ones have a certain allure with their inherently optimistic light, highlighting feel-good energy that’s desperately missing during these dour times.
Fear not rom-com fans, as Sony is reviving the genre with their latest Long Weekend. Writer/director Stephen Basilone’s debut feature thankfully doesn’t settle for the genre’s barebones appeals, morphing familiar machinations to construct one of the best mainstream rom-coms in years.
I must tread lightly discussing Basilone’s film, as some of its biggest appeals have thankfully been left for audiences to discover on their own accord (it’s thrilling to see a movie that doesn’t blatantly spoil its central twist in the trailers). For a debut feature, Basilone exhibits impressive poise and artistry behind the camera. His detailed visuals unearth the simmering emotions under Bart and Vienna’s relationship, matching the character’s grand emotions with a fittingly vibrant eye. The mixture of framing styles imbues a poignant sense of intimacy and liveliness, effectively breathing a creative verve that’s rarely present amongst its rom-com peers (seriously, most rom-coms look like TV pilots).
In a genre that often embraces a sense of artifice, Long Weekend feels refreshingly established in genuine dynamics. Basilone’s script doesn’t shy away from the character’s flawed realities, often ruminating on depression and isolation without any mawkishness. The inventive twist finds thoughtful ways to portray these inner-turmoils while keeping audiences on their toes throughout the runtime. When Basilone finally lands on his emotionally raw frames, he thankfully earns his tugs at the heart-strings with dynamic and well-articulated conversations (his script comes from a very personal place). I also appreciate Basilone’s seamless comedic additions, with his sharp script never compromising the tonal presentation for cheap gags.
None of these appealing qualities would work without the cast’s affable deliveries. Finn Wittrock and Zoe Chao make for an endlessly compelling pair onscreen. Their easy-going chemistry elevates the dramatic and comedic frames, with Wittrock’s subdued charisma being a fitting match for Chao’s effervescent light onscreen. A game supporting cast also shines in their passing-by roles. Jim Rash, Wendi McLendon-Covey, and Damon Wayans Jr. add some comedic sparkles without straining towards caricature deliveries (Wayans Jr. is such an underrated talented, exuding charm and vulnerability in his few frames as Bart’s supportive friend).
Long Weekend ignores a majority of its rom-com trappings, but there are still some naggingly inauthentic conventions. Amidst a tight 91-minute runtime, Basilone constricts some of his character developments to surface-level discoveries. While Bart is employed with a well-rounded arc, I wish his script gave Vienna more dimension onscreen. Even while mocking the “manic pixie dream girl” archetype, Basilone occasionally steers the character towards that trope as she serves as Bart’s supportive yet thinly-developed anchor.
Nitpicks aside, Long Weekend‘s endearing spell captured me from start to finish. Basilone’s debut feature impressively relays the optimistic open-heartedness of the genre’s best entries while still finding its own assured perspective. He has proved himself as an exciting talent to watch in the coming years.
Long Weekend is now playing in theaters across the United States.
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