In “The Longest Week,” Jason Bateman plays a privileged, pampered, narcissistic New Yorker whose sole effort at productivity in life is his meandering work on a novel called “The Directionless Generation.”
This may be a winking reference to the character himself, who clearly lacks direction, but alas, it’s an even more prescient reference to the movie as a whole. There are moments here and there to be enjoyed, mainly for the slick visuals (and wonderfully hip New York apartments), but basically it feels like a directionless enterprise. And though the film is only 86 minutes long, it tends to feel bloated and even a bit tedious by the end – perhaps not an entire generation long, but too long nonetheless.
It also feels derivative of other filmmaking styles. Writer-director Peter Glanz, making his debut feature, is clearly a Woody Allen fan; he uses the same jazzy-type music to accompany his dreamily appealing views of New York City, and he likes psychoanalysis scenes, too. Heck, the first scene has our main character, Conrad, venting to his analyst about his troubles with women, and the analyst is none other than Allen favorite Tony Roberts. Conrad even refers to himself as “Jungian.”
Bateman’s no stranger to unlikable characters -remember his memorable misanthrope in the recent “Bad Words,” who mercilessly stole spelling-bee trophies from innocent kids? But at least that character had an important justification for his ugly behavior, albeit one we didn’t learn `til the end. Here, Bateman’s Conrad doesn’t have a redeeming secret. He’s just rich and self-centered and duplicitous.
Conrad has lived his entire life in the sumptuous Valmont hotel, owned by his parents, but soon after we meet him, he falls on unfortunate circumstances. His parents, who’ve spent years traveling the world, are getting divorced, and neither wants to foot Conrad’s hotel bill anymore. So he’s out on the streets. He escapes to the apartment of his well-to-do friend Dylan (Billy Crudup), who’s also a rather pretentious elitist but at least has a modicum of moral sense.
Which Conrad does not. He repays Dylan’s hospitality by making a move on the lovely Beatrice (Olivia Wilde), a model and literature lover whom Dylan covets. And he lies to both of them about his financial situation, insisting his temporary homelessness has been necessitated by a hotel renovation.
Nevertheless, Beatrice falls for Conrad – one could ask why, but Allen’s characters always got the girls, too. Beatrice, we’re told by the omnipresent narrator, loves the precise way Conrad makes a Tom Collins, or ties a perfect Windsor knot in his necktie. The two share a few blissful days together – kissing by the river, for example, as the Manhattan lights glow (another Allen specialty) before things get really messy.
Conrad, it seems, is not destined to be happy. Nor is he destined to grow up.
Or is he? The movie’s epilogue seeks to impart a little meaning to Conrad’s journey. But by then, we’ve pretty much stopped caring. Through no fault of the talented Bateman, the movie never really gives us a reason to root for Conrad. And so whatever epiphany may be in store for this annoying character is – sorry, old chap – rather too little, and too late.
“The Longest Week” is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “sexual content and smoking.” Running time: 86 minutes. Two stars out of four.
MPAA definition of PG-13: Parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.