Despite however much, I may try to deny this in person if you asked me, I have a soft spot for romantic comedies. I have seen more than my fair share of them. The thing about a vast majority of these films is that they’re not very realistic. They create ridiculous expectations for single people, thinking that any actual human being will measure up to the larger-than-life shoes these actors and actresses portray as the “manic pixie dream girl” or “Prince Charming” or…whatever. Most people, especially once they exit their twenties, get a rude awakening to how unrealistic these movies are after dating a swath of duds and losers…or maybe that’s just me.
I feel that as we go deeper into the 21st century, the formula for romantic comedies is changing a bit. Perhaps people are sick of being lied to about love, and being made to think it’s easy and never a complete and total disaster. The Weekend offers none of these illusions, and that’s what makes it work.
SNL alumnus Sasheer Zamata stars as Zadie, a struggling comedian who has been recovering from a break-up for three years. I’m sure there are some “normal” people out there that might not understand how this could be possible, and bravo to them. I can relate to Zadie’s struggle 100%. She’s almost 30, hasn’t yet found the success in her career that she thought she had, and her ex-boyfriend wants to be her “friend,” but it’s TBD if he actually wants that or just doesn’t want her to be with anyone else.
“…almost 30, hasn’t yet found the success in her career that she thought she had, and her ex-boyfriend wants to be her ‘friend’…”
Tone Bell stars as Zadie’s ex, Bradford. For his birthday, Zadie has the idea to take him with her up to a Bed and Breakfast owned by her family and run by her mother, Karen (the inimitable Kym Whitley who has been in…I don’t know..EVERYTHING). Zadie gives Bradford a first edition copy of W.E.B. Dubois’ The Souls of Black Folk with an old picture of the two of them while they were still a couple inside. It’s a little embarrassing to see how attached she still is to Bradford, but wholly relatable to me, and hopefully others.
Something that Zadie doesn’t know is that she and Bradford will not be alone on their trip to the B&B. Bradford’s new girlfriend, Margo, is coming along for the trip. Zadie did not invite her, and Bradford did not tell Margo this. The drive up there is awkward, to say the least. Margo (Dewanda Wise) is the complete opposite of Zadie. Where Zadie is casual and frank, Margo is sophisticated and polite. Margo speaks foreign languages, owns Christian Louboutins, and expects Bradford to cook for her and open the car door. Zadie is blown away by this, and of course, jealous.
Once the trio arrives at the Bed and Breakfast, things continue to be awkward. Karen makes it quite clear that Margo was not invited and honestly didn’t seem to want Zadie to be there, either. Thankfully, the tension lightens up a little when another guest comes to the house. His name is Aubrey (Y’lan Noel, who plays Daniel on HBO’s Insecure) and originally he was supposed to be visiting the B&B with his girlfriend, with whom he was supposed to be moving from Canada to the US. She broke up with him right before the trip. Almost instantly, Margo tries to set Zadie and Aubrey up.
“These conversations seem exceptionally real, and the dynamic of all the actors seems lived in…”
The rest of the film follows the foursome through some very tense conversations. Aubrey and Zadie become close, which makes Bradford jealous, which then makes Margo jealous. Karen has no time for any of it.
The great thing about The Weekend is the exceptional job Stella Meghie does writing and directing the film. These conversations seem exceptionally real, and the dynamic of all the actors seems lived in and not fictional. I especially love Zamata’s performance and wish that she would’ve been given an opportunity to shine as much as she does in this movie on SNL. Tone Bell reminds me of several of the championship-winning assholes I’ve dated in my day but also has charm and humanity to where you’re not sure if you love him or hate him. Dewanda Wise starts out as an untouchable presence, but it’s beautiful and sad when you see her vulnerability. Y’lan Noel is kind of the “prince charming” here, except with more depth. I absolutely love Kym Whitley always, but it’s nice to see her in a more down-to-earth role here.
The Weekend explores all kinds of relationships dynamics in its’ rather short run time, and also manages to have some great cinematography and production design (courtesy of Kris Belchevski and Cindy Chao & Michele Yu respectively) to boot. The ending is not what you think it’s going to be and does wander into some familiar romantic comedy territory, but you’re rooting for Zadie so much at the end of the film that you can ignore that little bit of cheesiness in what is otherwise a pretty complex movie. It’s definitely worth seeing if only to support a film with an all-black cast, written and directed by a black woman. However, it’s so much more than that. Check it out when you have the chance!
The Weekend (2019) Written and Directed by Stella Meghie. Starring Sasheer Zamata, Tone Bell, Dewanda Wise, Y’lan Noel, and Kym Whitley. The Weekend screened at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival.
8 out of 10 stars