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Nights and Weekends
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by Jason Whyte

"A quiet and beautifully focused gem."
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2008 SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST FESTIVAL: The name of Joe Swanberg is one that is not immediately known to all filmgoing circles; when I was attending the Vancouver International Film Festival last fall, I asked several if anyone had seen “Hannah Takes The Stairs” and not a single person had, nor heard of Mr. Swanberg. If you live in Austin, Texas (or if you attend South by Southwest these days), his name is pretty much synonymous with SxSW. His last four features have played here in as just as many years, including “Hannah” and “LOL”.

At just 26, he has a very impressive resume under his belt, shooting low-budget features digitally in his home town of Chicago. His films focus more on young characters and feature what sounds like improvised dialogue. Swanberg’s style of movies birthed the term “Mumblecore”, which is a term to describe these kinds of films. Swanberg has a large list of indie-filmmakers that he is close with, from David Zellner to most notably Jay and Mark Duplass who created the festival darling “The Puffy Chair” back in 2005, which is one of my favorite indie-pictures of the last few years. Mumblecore or not, these kinds of films I adore and want to see more of.

The subject of long distance relationships is at the core of this story, as James (Swanberg) and Mattie (Greta Gerwig) are in a position where one has to live in Chicago and the other in New York. The story opens on the two of them making love on the laundry room floor (in a surprisingly long take involving some explicit nudity neither actor appear to be afraid of) as we begin to see the bounds break apart. The film’s pacing is slow and without any musical score to be found, as the seconds tick on the clock until their eventual end.

Comparing a work like this to the late Ingmar Bergman is a bit of a cliché, but I must admit that I was reminded slightly of “Scenes From A Marriage” as we are invited into the bedrooms of these characters. What I also loved is the quiet, beautiful images as they roam outside (there’s a rain sequence halfway through the film that looks and sounds exactly like it should, as opposed to torrents of fake movie rain) and communicate with one another. Later in the film, the film hits its emotional peak when the two lovers are reunited in New York, and what happens is so quiet and moving that it has stayed with me until I have written this review a few weeks later.

Swanberg and Gerwig have a way of communication that on paper might not sound like it’s written, but as performed it is felt and emoted in a unique and original way. The two get each other’s kind of “talk” to one another and we are interested in how they do so. It also helps that the two give quietly amazing performances. Swanberg is quiet, reserved but contains enough charm and wit to make him likable, while Gerwig is absolutely fearless in what she says and how she says it.

I hope that more people get to see this film and to appreciate Swanberg’s kind of cinematic language. I’ll admit that I have never viewed another of his films, but I look forward to seeing his other works and following what I am sure will be a long and fruitful career. “Nights and Weekends” is not an easy watch and it is far from timid, yet I loved the film for this very reason.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=17203&reviewer=350
originally posted: 04/07/08 02:11:26
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2008 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Chicago International Film Festival For more in the 2008 Chicago International Film Festival series, click here.

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  10-Oct-2008 (NR)
  DVD: 25-Aug-2009



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