LONG WEEKEND (2021)
Finn Wittrock, Zoë Chao, Damon Wayans Jr, Casey Wilson, Jim Rash, Jess Jacobs, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Ellison Randell
Directed by Steve Basilone
What could have been another average rom-com becomes a stimulating romantic fantasy as Finn Wittrock and Zoë Chao play star-crossed lovers who meet by chance one weekend at a time when they both are in a vulnerable position. An intense affair of the heart develops but the universe drops a bomb as secrets are revealed and suddenly their fling is thrown into a tizzy. Writer-director Steve Basilone crafts a magical story based on a simple premise propelled by the charming actors. To quote Chao’s character, “So, can we just maybe enjoy this?” The answer, yes.
Our story begins as Bart (Wittrock) lies in his nearly vacant Los Angeles apartment staring at the ceiling while pondering life. His mother passed away from cancer a year ago, his fiancé just left him, he’s in between jobs and with little money, he’ll soon be living in the converted garage of best friend Doug (Damon Wayans Jr) and wife Rachel (Casey Wilson), proud parents of two young kids.
Bart is a writer. He won’t be getting any of his short stories published soon, including the one about the guy who has a nervous breakdown after his fiancé leaves him (yikes!), but he lands a job working for a catalog company where he can use his literary flair to describe products like a new catheter, “Smaller and more malleable does seem advantageous in the world of penis tubes.” His new boss Larry (Jim Rash) smiles and remarks, “See, that already sounds better!” The job is not exactly what Bart was hoping for but it’s a start and a paycheck.
To celebrate, Bart grabs a bottle of whiskey and heads to the neighborhood repertory cinema to catch one of his favorite films “Being There.” He drinks too much, passes out during the film only to be awakened by cute and charming Vienna (Chao) after the screening. She comes on strong and soon the two are headed for drinks at a fancy craft cocktail bar and a local dive.
Before the lovebirds begin a whirlwind romance there are a few red flags that Bart ignores. Vienna has no ID, no cell phone, and she’s carrying a large wad of cash. She’s also clueless when it comes to buying drinks, leaving $60 for a couple of cocktails. “That’s way too much!” Bart comments as Vienna looks on perplexed.
Wittrock and Chao have undeniable chemistry and they are playing two characters that you can easily fall in love with. The story feels like familiar rom-com territory but as the weekend romance intensifies Bart becomes more curious about Vienna’s past and her free-spirited attitude towards life. She reveals a secret that forces Bart to question everything that’s happened in the last 24 hours. He doesn’t know whether to kiss Vienna or ask her to leave.
Basilone was inspired to write “Long Weekend” after experiencing a similar rough patch that mirrors Bart’s life. He used that experience as a starting point for the film but then took the narrative in a fictional direction by incorporating elements of science fiction. Depending on your viewpoint, something magical or quite disturbing is going on and the well-written story never gives away its secret, holding out until the film’s finale.
We are used to seeing Finn Wittrock in darker roles on series that include “American Horror Story” and “Ratched” but he’s also appeared in critically acclaimed films “The Last Black Man in San Francisco,” “If Beale Street Could Talk” and he starred opposite Renee Zellweger in “Judy” as Mickey Deans, the fifth ex-husband of Judy Garland. Wittrock’s charisma makes him perfect rom-com material. He delivers a gratifying performance by playing a character with an edge making for a smooth transition to lighter fare.
Zoë Chao is a delight as Vienna. She has a girl-next-door quality that adds credibility to Basilone’s story. It’s easy to see how Bart could ignore the warning signs and fall under Vienna’s spell. She’s enchanting to watch. Chao has appeared in the HBO Max anthology “Love Life” and opposite Tracee Ellis Ross and Dakota Johnson in last year’s “The High Note.”
“Long Weekend” leaves you with unanswered questions but in this case, it doesn’t matter. Wittrock and Chao click, the story is both funny and enchanting, and the film casts a spell that will put a big smile on your face.
Now showing in theaters including Cinemark 12