Stillborn dramatic comedy Dirty Weekend marginally improves as it goes, especially when writer-director Neil LaBute makes like Les (Matthew Broderick), his repressed lead protagonist, and leaves some questions unanswered. Until then, Les, a smug salesman who tries to reunite with a mysterious one-night stand while he’s laid over in Albuquerque, wears viewers down with nonstop whining.
LaBute makes Les believably testy, but that doesn’t make scenes where he repeatedly loses patience with his sympathetic assistant and travel companion Natalie (Alice Eve of the recent Star Treks) more bearable. Les equivocates and snipes at her about everything, including his distaste for Greyhound buses (“I hate bus travel. It scares me”) and women cursing in public (“Women never used to talk like that”).
Thankfully, Broderick’s sheepish body language takes some of the edge off the wearying behavior, especially during the dialogue-light concluding scenes — he often seems to be stapling his chin to his burgundy sweater. He also gets in a few hysterically indignant blank stares, like when Les tries to make small talk with a stranger in a public bathroom: “You a Lakers fan?”
Still, while Les eventually becomes more tolerable, LaBute’s cloying dialogue makes it impossible to appreciate what turns out to be a bracingly pragmatic sense of optimism. Life may be short, as Natalie wails during an unconvincing rant about Americans’ sexual hang-ups. But Dirty Weekend feels interminable even before the enigmatic object of Les’s quest pseudo-breezily exclaims, “Everybody’s only got so much time, baby, and life is keepin’ tabs.”
Written and directed by Neil LaBute
Opens September 4, Cinema Village
Available on demand
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 3, 2015