Affluent and aimless, Conrad Valmont lives a life of leisure in his parent's prestigious Manhattan Hotel. In the span of one week, he finds himself evicted, disinherited, and... in love.
Three days have passed since I watched 'The Longest Week' and I'm having the hardest time resolving my exact sentiments regarding it. In many ways, it's wildly romantic and beautiful, but in even more ways it's nothing more than a cliche that we've already seen from several other creative filmmakers.
Shot in 2012, 'The Longest Week' finally saw the light of day when given a very limited release in September 2014. If you've seen the trailer, you'd conclude that Fox quietly pushed this movie along because it looks as generic and formulaic as could be. While the concept itself is fairly original, the tone that the movie appears to carry in the trailer couldn't be farther from reality. Made out as a standard rom-com, in actuality, it carries a 100 percent indie feel.
Thematically, conceptually, stylistically and tonally, 'The Longest Week' feels like a hybrid of '(500) Days of Summer' and 'The Royal Tenenbaums.' Although I noticed the borrowed filmmaking styles just a few minutes into the movie, everything that followed in the film continually reinforced my early observation. While this initial opinion immediately made roll my eyes, let out a sigh and fold my arms in disgust, it grew on me as it progressed. The annoyance became enjoyable. I found myself admiring it for being able to use the borrowed styles wisely and with charm. Many filmmakers have attempted to use/steal Wes Anderson's branded style, but none have been able to pull it off well.
'The Longest Week' features an all-seeing third-person narrator from beginning to end. It kicks off with an introduction to our central character, Conrad Valmont (Jason Bateman). Being raised in the hotel owned by his two affluent and absurdly wealthy parents, Conrad has absolutely no idea what the real world is like. Living off his parents' wealth, he's never had to work a day in his life. As a pampered and spoiled nearly-40-year-old only child, Conrad is used to getting what he wants when he wants it – but all of that is about to change.
Conrad's parents abandoned him decades earlier to travel the globe. Now abroad, an argument results in them deciding to divorce. With neither wanting to fund Conrad's lifestyle on their own, he's cut off and kicked out. In pure desperation, Conrad turns to his best and only friend Dylan (Billy Crudup), a similar wannabe intellectual artist who lacks the charm and confidence of his pal. Like a pair of teenage boys needing the moral support of their buddies to talk to a pretty girl, Dylan immediately asks Conrad to tag along to a casual gathering with a local model, Beatrice (Olivia Wilde), that lies in his cross-hairs. Unbeknownst to Dylan, she and Conrad have already met. After their first flirty encounter, bringing Conrad along may have been a terrible mistake.
The initial introduction of Conrad and Beatrice is much like the meeting of David Aames and Sofia Serrano in 'Vanilla Sky' - despite being introduced by a mutual friend who obviously has intentions of dating Beatrice, the two are so magnetically attracted to one another that the heartbreak of Dylan will just be collateral damage to their wildfire romance. For most guys, breaking "guy code" would never be an option – but Conrad isn't most guys. He's a spoiled rich kid who's always had whatever he wanted. Beatrice is no exception.
What follows is filled with countless likeable, charismatic and entertaining moments. Unfortunately, it's also bogged down by a meandering and cliched story that feels as if it's present just to fill time. 'The Longest Week' is based on a short film and it certainly feels like a short film that has been needlessly expanded to feature length. Even with a runtime of just 86 minutes (including closing credits), there came a moment when I assumed that the film was coming to a close, only to check the time and be shocked to find that it hadn't even been running for an hour. So, if you like pretty things that make time stand still in an occasionally pleasant way, then 'The Longest Week' – a.k.a. "The Longest 86 Minutes" – is the indie dramedy for you.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Fox has placed 'The Longest Week' on a Region A BD-25. The disc arrives in a standard blue Elite case and includes a redemption code for an HD digital copy of the film. You have the option of an Ultraviolet or iTunes copy. Before getting to the disc's main menu, there's a forced Fox vanity reel, a commercial for Fox HD digital copies and trailers for 'Before I Go to Sleep,' 'Gone Girl' and 'The Best of Me.'
'The Longest Week' has been given a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode that doesn't do much for the integrity of the movie's beautifully grainy 35mm shoot. Had it not been for the disc's reduced size, the only problems with the picture quality might have been random scenes featuring softness and lessened resolution. They appear as if zoomed and cropped to achieve a shot that was never filmed. These blemishes aren't the result of a poor transfer, but odd directorial decisions and have no effect on my overall scoring of the video quality.
Unfortunately, there are more flaws than just those. Aside from artifacts, all possible compression flaws are present. Banding kicks off in the opening vanity reel and continues to pop up occasionally throughout. Aliasing is visible within many of the movie's should-be sharp fine lines and edges. Faint traces of digital noise can be found throughout. And icky black levels result in crushing more often than not.
While I've only mentioned the issues that arise, between the smattering of problems are some actually strong characteristics: the grainy celluloid look lends itself perfectly to the style and mood of the movie; full of off-whites and pale blues, the muted color palette allows for vibrant accent colors – especially reds – to pop vibrantly; when the cinematographer is able to keep shots in focus, great details abound. While the blurriness is random, Olivia Wilde always seems to appear with perfect detail. The minor imperfections in her complexion are apparent, as are the individual strands of hair on head. Had it been placed on a BD-50 with the "Wilde detail" consistent throughout, 'The Longest Week' would have been a gorgeous Blu-ray.
Just like the video quality, the lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track that accompanies 'The Longest Week' is less than impressive.
Like that of '(500) Days of Summer,' the narration features commanding, yet warm, inflection that resonates well from front and center. It's clear and enjoyable, especially when it cracks a joke without pausing to make sure that you picked up on it. The production audio is pretty good, but features a few odd inconsistencies. During Conrad's first meeting with his shrink, the vocals are unnaturally loud, but not blown out. Other scenes feature murky vocals that dish up too much of the environmental echoey stuff that unwantedly comes with super low budget indie movies. Other times, like when a speech is given in a great hall, the echo of the hard-surfaced setting provides a nice sound that's effectively mixed into the surround channels.
With most emitting from the front, the effects mixing is very underwhelming. Passing cars and the New York City street ambiance that should be spread throughout the theater are locked into the front speakers. The front-heavy mixing makes for the rare surround instances – like the aforementioned echoey speech – to jump out.
The music track isn't bad, but it lacks dynamics. Like the effects, music relies heavily on the front end. It's never solely locked into that area, but the music that's channeled to surround speakers is so light and quiet that it's hardly audible. Some track and scoring are better when it comes to dynamics, but not as many as should.
'The Longest Week' offers a completely conflicting viewing experience. Unquestionably ripping off the styles of proven filmmakers, it will offend at first, but quickly win you over with the ability to use those styles wisely. Just after making you like it again, the story itself takes a turn for the generic and directionless, causing it feel stretched out and long despite clocking in under 90 minutes. The video quality has potential, but is doomed by compression flaws and unpleasing directorial decisions. The audio is extremely front-heavy and majorly lacks dynamics. One solid-but-short special feature is included, but that's not enough to keep 'The Longest Week' afloat. Knowing what I know now, I recommend skipping it entirely.