When romantic movies are grounded in a real-world setting but contain an element of fantasy, there comes a point where you either go with it or you don’t. Think of movies such as “Starman” (1984) or “Phenomenon” (1996) or “Happy Accidents” (2000) or “Just Like Heaven” (2005), and in those cases, I was happy to come along for the journey and not get all tangled up in the science or lack thereof.
There are times — as in “Phenomenon” — when there’s ultimately a medical explanation for seemingly supernatural developments, and that may or may not be the case with the intriguing and smart and warmhearted “Long Weekend,” a nice little gem of escapist entertainment that keeps us guessing until the very end, which is corny as all get-out and maybe I even got something in my eye.
Writer-director Steve Basilone makes an impressive feature debut in this well-photographed film, which bathes Los Angeles in warm tones befitting a romantic comedy in which two people meet-cute, strike up an instant connection and are soon so lost in each other’s worlds it’s as if nobody else even exists. Finn Wittrock (“American Horror Story”), who looks like he stepped off a 1950s Hollywood set but can play vulnerable and likable, gives one of his best performances as Bart (We don’t get too many leading men named Bart, do we?), who fell into a deep depression and had something of a breakdown after his girlfriend broke up with him. Bart is taking medication and is back out there looking for work as a writer, but he’s still in a delicate place and working on his issues, as evidenced by him downing most of a bottle of liquor in a movie theater in the middle of the day and passing out.
Bart is awakened by the only other moviegoer still in the theater: the smart and funny and pretty and slightly askew Vienna, played by the wonderful Zoë Chao, who often plays wisecracking friend roles, and it’s great to see her in the lead here and knocking it out of the park. Vienna talks Bart into going for a drink, and then more drinks, and day turns into dusk turns into night, and they share laughs and intimate glances and more laughs, and there’s even a very Movie Moment where Bart buys a couple of sparklers from some kids and Bart and Vienna join them in running about, without a care in the world.
Off we go into rom-com land! Damon Wayans Jr. and Casey Wilson are Doug and Rachel, respectively, who are married with kids but exist in this movie primarily as Supportive Best Friends for Bart. They’re happy for Bart, but isn’t it a little odd that Vienna doesn’t have a cell phone, doesn’t have a credit card, carries around a giant wad of cash and has offered only vague details about her past? Is she a criminal on the run? Someone experiencing mental health issues? An alien? A visitor from the future? From the past? From a parallel universe?
Let’s just say one of those might be true. Even after Vienna explains everything to Bart, we’re not sure what to believe, and then it’s pretty obvious what is really happening — until it’s not, and the only thing we’re sure of is Bart and Vienna are beautiful together and wouldn’t it be something if this was all real and not just a fantasy.