5 Screenwriting Takeaways: ‘Long Weekend’ Has Audiences Packing Their Bags for A Romantic Escape
March 22, 2021
Long Weekend is one of those romantic comedies that sticks to the guts harder than one may imagine. At first glance it seems a simple walk-and-talk piece; down-on-his-luck guy meets unexpected girl and they have a night at some dive bars that seems of great consequence to the two of them. But as soon as one starts to linger with main characters Bart (Finn Wittrock) and Vienna (Zoe Chao), it’s evident there is much more at play in the film and more surprises than meets the eye.
Nothing lasts forever
The overarching theme of this film — that people can leave one giant impression on a heart, no matter how short-lived their visit — is not only relatable, but a lesson worth remembering, whether it’s in platonic or romantic love. Humans get limited time on earth and with each other; the pandemic may have forced far too many people to consider this. So, if you only get a short-lived shot at love, would you take it? Long Weekend forced Bart to reckon with this notion when he meets otherworldly Vienna. She cleverly describes herself as a traveler just passing through Los Angeles for business, and while the conceit is bigger than that, perhaps the lesson of making every moment count is even bigger.
Sci-fi meets rom-com
Genre-bending and cross-genre commingling is currently all the rage with sci-fi meeting rom-com more often than not of late. It works to great effect here, where Chao’s Vienna is a time traveler from the future. Long Weekend manages to strike the right balance of mystical world-building without detracting from the story at hand: Bart and Vienna’s short-lived love story. It’s a tough conceit but filmmaker Stephen Basilone handles it with aplomb. Vienna is from far enough away to carry juicy future details, but not so far that her world feels that different from Bart’s. Of course, for rom-com stakes a time traveler can’t stay forever, and it’s not sure exactly what might happen but it seems to involve brain scrambling or maybe interrupting the space-time continuum. Either way, it makes every moment Bart and Vienna spend together all the sweeter.
Long Weekend is cleverly titled, as well. Time-traveling love interest Vienna plays Bart a song from her favorite band, LONG WEEKEND. He hasn’t heard of them because, of course, they are from the future. She does this at a critical moment — the moment she tries to prove to him she’s not crazy, nothing she’s saying is made up. This is her reality, and she’s just living in Bart’s for a little while. It’s a painful and pivotal and funny scene all at once, and it puts the audience in a state of mind. Their time together is limited like a long weekend, but it’s also a state of mind. They’re both on a brain vacation, ignoring responsibilities and inevitable realities, and their respite is a nice place to visit.
Dealing with depression
It’s refreshing to watch a love story with a character dealing with (and sometimes not dealing with) depression. When we first meet Bart, he is regressing from what seems to have been progress; doctors and an ex call him on repeat to check in on him. It’s not clear yet what exactly Bart experienced, but it is clear he’s not over it yet. When time travel becomes a metaphor for depression — “your brain gets scrambled, you don’t think clearly,” explains Vienna — Bart is able to open up about what he’s been dealing with. Vienna empathizes: “It’s tough to be a human, huh?”
While we watch rom-coms often to escape and to watch wish-fulfillment scenarios, it can feel just as powerful to deal with the dirt of reality and take the sheen off of love. By doing so here, Basilone made love more tangible, real and accessible not just for Bart, but also for the audience.
The future is open-ended
No spoilers, but the ending of Long Weekend makes it worth the watch. It’s shocking, surprising and may have the audience coming up with more questions than answers. But that’s also what the future is — uncertain, bright, scary, not everything tied neatly in a bow. That isn’t to say Basilone doesn’t offer some lovely payoffs (a bank account once empty is now full, a strip of photo-booth photos where digital footprints are left blank). Most of all, it may leave audiences questioning the very idea of Vienna and her powers, how much she knew, and what one might do if they also had the power to skip time and place. Just like a long weekend, Vienna herself is a real trip.
Long Weekend is a satisfying rom-com for its embrace of the imperfect while also offering audiences some magical and unexpected twists along the way. While paths crossing rarely feel fated, sometimes it just takes a government time traveler to convince a down-on-his-luck guy otherwise.
Written by: Lindsay StidhamLindsay holds an MFA in screenwriting from the American Film Institute. She has overseen two scripts from script to screen as a writer/ producer. SPOONER, starring Matthew Lillard (SLAMDANCE), and DOUCHEBAG (SUNDANCE) both released theatrically. Most recently Lindsay sold PLAY NICE starring Mary Lynn Rajskub. The series was distributed on Hulu. Recent directing endeavors include the Walla Walla premiering (and best screenplay nominated) TIL DEATH DO US PART, and the music video for Bible Belt’s Tomorrow All Today. Lindsay is currently working on an interactive romcom for the production company Effin' Funny, and a feature film script for Smarty Pants Pictures. Lindsay also currently works as an Adjunct Screenwriting Faculty member at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. You can follow her work here: https://lindsaystidham.onfabrik.com/