Beneath the spot on clothes and haircuts, Karl Golden’s film is unremarkable in almost every single way.
Iconic cultural periods deserve equally iconic films. But though the accoutrements of nostalgia are easy to devise, getting them to work on screen is an entirely different challenge. This turns out to be Weekender’s major problem. Beneath the spot on clothes and haircuts, Karl Golden’s film is unremarkable in almost every single way. If anything, it feels like a throwback to the National Lottery-funded crud churned out in the wake of Trainspotting and Lock, Stock in the late '90s. How’s that for looking back in anguish?
Chris Coghill’s screenplay is no love letter to the Manchester rave era, nor is it really even about music culture. Instead, the MDMA epoch is merely a backdrop to the story of two young lads, Dylan (Jack O’Connell) and Matt (Henry Lloyd-Hughes), on the make. After starting their own party night, they’re soon attracting success – and attention from local gangsters. What follows is the standard rise and fall narrative we’ve seen a million times before.
O’Connell at least puts in a likeable performance as Dylan – Johnny Boy to Lloyd-Hughes’ Charlie. But they’re both outshone by Ben Batt as a Salford crook. He’s the one cast member who lifts the film with his presence, hiding behind a front of civility and calmness. "We’re all mates," is his mantra while fleecing the hopeless pair.
The nightclub settings are imagined without flair, while the rapid editing simply ensures that the clichés come thick and fast. By way of comparison, Lynne Ramsay achieved a kind of gorgeous elevation in Morvern Callar simply by slowing down the world, and cutting her images to other types of music. You can’t help but question whether Golden, his writer or producers have ever even stepped foot in a nightclub – illegal or not. The whole enterprise comes off as ill-conceived, misguided and phoney.
At best, Weekender might attract curious older viewers with vague memories of being drugged up in abandoned warehouses. The soundtrack is the film’s only gift to them, culled, obviously, from acid house hits of yesteryear.
Grab the glow sticks and whistles, we’re going to a rave. Potential fun to be had.
This is one dodgy trip.
A dead party with too few tricks up its sleeve.