You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Nights and Weekends

Joe Swanberg conceives another lo-fi relationship study with collaborator Greta Gerwig in "Nights and Weekends."

With: Greta Gerwig, Joe Swanberg, Alison Bagnall, Elizabeth Donius, Jay Duplass, Kent Osborne, Lynn Shelton, Ellen Stagg.

Still content to operate on the non-commercial fringe, Joe Swanberg conceives another lo-fi relationship study with collaborator Greta Gerwig in “Nights and Weekends.” It’s something of an overstatement to say they write, direct and star in this portrait of a couple trying to keep their long-distance relationship alive, since the duo’s improvisational approach reflects none of the polished dialogue, strategic camera placement or mannered performances traditionally described by those roles. But as members of the mumblecore clique, these DIY auteurs have earned a following online, which could attract modest theatrical business, not to mention potential on-demand and DVD interest.

For those acquainted with Swanberg’s oeuvre — which includes the Gerwig-centered “Hannah Takes the Stairs” — the sight of these two actors’ naked flesh should be nothing new. Pic opens with another of the helmer’s matter-of-fact sex scenes, as Mattie (Gerwig) stumbles through the front door of James’ (Swanberg) Chicago apartment after three months spent in separate cities. No bearskin rug or rose petal-strewn sheets here, just pasty flesh fumbling awkwardly on a hardwood floor.

The episode is treated with same lack of glamour as a scene of Mattie using the restroom which appears half an hour later, during James’ reciprocal visit to New York. Alternating between the two cities, the shoestring-financed pic illuminates moments of intimacy and tension in James and Mattie’s relationship with no indications as to when the couple met, how long they’ve been dating or why the strain of long-distance romance is worth the maintenance.

And yet, their situation is universal enough to be almost generic, allowing audiences to refer back to Swanberg’s earlier films, such as “LOL,” in which he explores the role cell phones, digital cameras and the Internet play in contemporary romance (the title of “Nights and Weekends” alludes to those hours when cell-phone carriers provide unlimited talk time).

Midway through, events skip forward one year to find the dynamic changed between the now ex-lovers. James, a vidgame designer, now visits New York for work rather than nookie. While in town, he carves out time to catch up with Mattie between an industry conference, a press interview and a photo shoot. The camera lingers with Mattie on the sidelines during these scenes, reflecting her unarticulated feelings of inadequacy and frustration as James’ life has taken off without her.

Empowered by digital filmmaking equipment, Swanberg and Gerwig are free to unravel the conventions of traditional Hollywood romances, depicting casual moments while ignoring the break-up altogether. Some may find the result boring or unpolished, but there’s poetry — not to mention a fair dose of comedy — in the mix. The duo’s attention shifts from soul-baring philosophical discussion (a la Linklater) or dramatic eruptions (think Cassavetes) to quiet, almost mundane observation. Pic encourages auds to read between the lines, ensuring that the film will be most profound to those who see themselves (or those they recognize) reflected in its more prosaic moments.

Still, “Nights and Weekends” reps Swanberg’s most straightforward project yet, showing a subtle evolution in style and form. Although many scenes still unfold within a single, handheld shot, lighting and technique have improved, and a number of the compositions are striking.

Fellow mumblecore filmmakers, including Jay Duplass and Kent Osborne, make brief cameos, but the pic rarely strays far from its central couple. The only music — a well-chosen “This Will Be Our Year” by the Zombies — sets the tone under the opening titles.

Nights and Weekends

Production: An IFC Films release of a Filmscience production. Produced by Greta Gerwig, Anish Savjani, Dia Sokol, Joe Swanberg. Directed, written by Joe Swanberg, Greta Gerwig.

Crew: Camera (color, DV), Matthias Grunsky, Benjamin Kasulke; editor, Swanberg; sound, Kevin Bewersdorf, Jay Duplass, Aaron Katz, Anish Savjani, Dia Sokol. Reviewed on DVD, Los Angeles, March 18. (In SXSW Film Festival -- Spotlight Premieres.) Running time: 80 MIN.

With: With: Greta Gerwig, Joe Swanberg, Alison Bagnall, Elizabeth Donius, Jay Duplass, Kent Osborne, Lynn Shelton, Ellen Stagg.

More Film

  • ABA_062_DAU_0060_v0409.87501 – Rosa Salazar stars as

    Box Office: 'Alita: Battle Angel' Wins Dismal President's Day Weekend

    Fox’s sci-fi adventure “Alita: Battle Angel” dominated in North America, but its opening weekend win isn’t leaving the box office with much to celebrate. Tracking services estimate that this will be one of the lowest grossing President’s Day weekends in years. Ticket sales are on pace to be the smallest bounty for the holiday frame [...]

  • Bohemian Rhapsody

    'Bohemian Rhapsody,' 'Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' Among Cinema Audio Society Winners

    Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” won the Cinema Audio Society’s top prize for sound mixing at Saturday night’s 55th annual CAS Awards. The film is Oscar-nominated for sound mixing this year along with “Black Panther,” “First Man,” “Roma” and “A Star Is Born.” In a surprise over heavy-hitters “Incredibles 2” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Wes [...]

  • Oscars Placeholder

    Make-Up and Hair Stylist Guild Applauds Academy's Stance on Airing Every Oscar Winner

    Rowdy boos were followed by triumphant cheers at the Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Awards on Saturday in Los Angeles, as the Hollywood union touched on a week of controversy over a reversed decision to hand out four Oscars during the show’s commercial breaks. Hair and makeup was one of the four categories that would [...]

  • Marvelous Mrs Maisel Vice

    'Vice,' 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' Lead Make-Up and Hair Stylists Guild Awards Winners

    Adam McKay’s Dick Cheney biopic “Vice,” starring Oscar nominees Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Sam Rockwell, won two awards at the sixth annual Make-Up and Hair Stylists Guild Awards Saturday night. The film won for best period and/or character makeup as well as special makeup effects. “Mary Queen of Scots” received the prize for period [...]

  • Bette Midler

    Bette Midler to Perform on the Oscars (EXCLUSIVE)

    Bette Midler will perform “The Place Where Lost Things Go” at the Oscar ceremonies on Feb. 24, Variety has learned. Midler, a longtime friend of composer-lyricist Marc Shaiman, will sing the song originally performed by Emily Blunt in “Mary Poppins Returns.” The song, by Shaiman and his lyricist partner Scott Wittman, is one of five [...]

  • Olmo Teodoro Cuaron, Alfonso Cuaron and

    Alfonso Cuarón Tells Why His Scoreless 'Roma' Prompted an 'Inspired' Companion Album

    Back around the ‘90s, “music inspired by the film” albums got a bad name, as buyers tired of collections full of random recordings that clearly were inspired by nothing but the desire to use movie branding to launch a hit song. But Alfonso Cuarón, the director of “Roma,” is determined to find some artistic validity [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content