Dirty Weekend (2015)

Dirty Weekend (2015)
  • Time: 93 min
  • Genre: Comedy | Drama
  • Director: Neil LaBute
  • Cast: Matthew Broderick, Alice Eve, Phil Burke


Colleagues Les and Natalie are delayed in the Albuquerque airport. Restless, irritated, and unable to stand the service workers he meets at every turn, Les heads downtown. Natalie refuses to leave his side and discovers that his supposedly aimless wandering has more of a point than he is willing to admit. Natalie conceals secrets of her own, though neither can keep them quiet for long. A rapport grows between this unlikely pair, and soon they search out a spark of excitement in this most unlikely of locales.

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  • Old-fashioned is not a word one would ascribe to writer-director Neil LaBute, whose confrontational and often challenging works have secured his reputation as an agent provocateur. Cynical, vicious, deceptive, and misogynistic are common descriptives for his characters, the majority of whom specialise in mind games where drawing first blood is the prime objective.

    It may be a kindler, gentler LaBute on hand for Dirty Weekend, his tenth feature film, but the knottiness of desire and denial remains a driving force. Stranded in Albuquerque when their flight to Dallas is delayed due to a downpour, work colleagues Les (Matthew Broderick) and Natalie (Alice Eve) must bide their time until the situation is resolved. Les seems uncommonly agitated – frequently fingering a mysterious scrap of paper, making digs at Natalie’s optimism (“It’s all fun and games until someone sticks a spear in your ass.”) and assiduousness. Natalie, ever the controlled professional, maintains her composure and reminds him that “You don’t have to be nasty to get what you want.”

    When it becomes evident that they will be sidelined for quite some time, Les decides to head into the city’s downtown area. Natalie deems this unwise – what if a flight opens up, what if they lose contact, what if he can’t make it back in time – and ends up tagging along. Skeptical of his mission to look for some Indian trinkets to take home to his teenage kids, Natalie manages to finagle the true reason for the field trip by revealing some personal information about herself. Namely, the turtlenecks she favours conceal the bondage collar that her dominant long-term girlfriend has her wear when they’re separated. Les, his reluctance weakened by her confession, discloses that he had a one-night stand with a woman who may have been a man the last time he was in Albuquerque. The memory of the tryst is blurred by alcohol, but he remembers enjoying the experience and has been constantly thinking about it since then.

    What further unfolds is essentially one long walk and talk as the emphatic Natalie encourages Les to work out his complicated feelings (“You’re not supposed to do things like that,” he states) and even retrace the whereabouts of that transgressive liaison. “What if I do like guys? Or other women? Then what?” he asks. “Then you’ll know who you are,” she answers. The irony is we never truly know who Les and Natalie are. Dirty Weekend, like Natalie, withholds more than it divulges; and what it does parcel out is calculated to make you think it’s letting on more than it actually is.

    As a filmmaker, LaBute has never completely shed his theatrical roots. There’s a mannered, airless quality to his work that has often been disguised by the venality of his characters. For all the to’ing and fro’ing that Les and Natalie do (here they are in the airport lounge, here they are at the hotel lounge, here they are at a diner), Dirty Weekend exists in a sparsely populated space. It’s characteristic of LaBute’s penchant for clinical observation – he views his characters as if they were under a microscope, all the better for emotional dissection but that distance renders his characters all but bloodless.

    Broderick and Eve partner up well, but he never convinces as the conflicted family man. Eve fares much better. This is her second collaboration with LaBute (their first, Some Velvet Morning, was an equally stagy but far more effective two-hander that dealt with sexualised violence), and she has a way of infusing a naturalism in his frequently overworked dialogue. She’s largely absent in the film’s final third, much to the film’s detriment. Broderick’s dilemma feels dated – it may have landed a stronger, tarter punch in the early Nineties – and LaBute’s treatment of it pales in comparison to The D Train and The Overnight, recent releases that had more thoughtful and provocative takes on sexual yearning and curiosity.

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