The Weekend feels like the kind of visually uncurious and boilerplate “indie film debut” every white dude with a beard and an MFA has ever made.
Modern indie comedies tend to borrow a lot from the films of Éric Rohmer and other auteurs who specialized in hyper-verbal, conversational pieces about character and circumstance. Many a film in this vein leapfrogs over all the specificity and charm that makes those artsier films indelible, instead settling for short sprints that follow fiercely unlikable people through absurd and irritating conflicts. Stella Meghie’s latest, The Weekend, falls right in line with that unfortunate tradition, wasting a stellar cast on a rough script with no discernible reason to exist.
The film stars former “SNL” player Sasheer Zamata as Zadie, a young comedian who is still friends with and clearly not over her ex-boyfriend Bradford (Tone Bell). Her mother (played by Kym Whitley) owns a bed and breakfast and winds up hosting Zadie and Bradford and Bradford’s new girlfriend, Margo (DeWanda Wise), for a weekend full of awkwardness, low-level farce and uncomfortable interactions. Along the way, “Insecure” standout Y’lan Noel joins the fray as Aubrey, a fellow guest at the B&B who further complicates things when he takes an interest in Zadie.
Now, the premise is a fine one and the kind of set-up that could be compelling, but the characters are all universally difficult to watch or to want to spend time with. It’s not that they’re particularly unsavory or cruel individuals, but the root nature of their conflicts is so irritating that the film, even at its best, feels like four supremely talented and charming young actors have been saddled with the unenviable task of acting out what amounts to an overlong episode of “Love Island.”
Zadie, in particular, is such a difficult figure to empathize with, despite the film centering her in our attention, both through her interactions with the core cast and opening bits of her stand-up routine, a Seinfeldian creative decision that fails to provide either laughs or insight into who she is. At times, the tediousness of the film’s love triangle and the general lack of anyone to root for call Reality Bites to mind, but that film filled out its periphery with interesting side characters and larger social commentary. The Weekend is really stripped down to this basic drama, unfolding as blandly and textbook as possible.
While it’s sad that the performers have so little to work with, it’s even more depressing to see this kind of work from Meghie. Her adaptation of the YA novel Everything, Everything elevated some troubling material into a sweet and well-observed teen romcom, and her TV credits prove she’s got the chops to do far better than this.
The Weekend feels like the kind of visually uncurious and boilerplate “indie film debut” every white dude with a beard and an MFA has ever made. On the one hand, it could seem like some kind of triumph to see a young black filmmaker play in the same shallow end of the pool, but given that she’s already helmed two other (better!) features, this feels like the worst kind of regression.