I always liked Matthew Broderick, but it has been about fifteen years since I have seen him in anything. He plays a middle-aged businessman investigating his sexuality in Neil LaBute’s new picture, “Dirty Weekend,” but I didn’t know it was him until the credits rolled at the end of the movie. Looking now at stills from the movie, I can see the resemblance between the youthful Broderick of “Torch Song Trilogy” and this older model. Some of the differences can be attributed to the wardrobe and makeup, but most of it is Broderick’s damn fine acting. It has been over fifteen years since I saw LaBute’s first two movies. Much as I liked them, I didn’t keep up with LaBute’s career, an omission I am eager to rectify since seeing “Dirty Weekend,” one of the mostly skillfully written and directed pictures of recent years.
It opens at an airport, where Les (Broderick) and his business partner Natalie (Alice Eve) are stranded due to inclement weather. Les is whining in typically anxious Woody Allen style, and wants to ditch Natalie and head into town on his own to kill time while waiting for the next flight to Dallas, but Natalie insists on sticking to him. Over the course of subsequent events, we find out why he wanted to strike out on his own. It seems something happened when he was in this town before, but he was too drunk to remember exactly what it was, although the vague memory of it is enough to challenge some of the ideas he has about his own identity. Alice, who has been on such a personal quest herself, is keen on providing some guidance.
LaBute is a Mormon who sees the non-Mormon world as irrevocably damned. In his first pictures, “In the Company of Men” and “Your Friends and Neighbors,” it was obvious that the ugliness of his characters was built on his condemnation of them. In “Dirty Weekend,” his attitude is somewhat ambiguous. Has he become more accepting of the moral laxity of non-Mormons, or is he saying that the infidels might as well accept their sinful nature and do whatever the hell they please because they are so far outside God’s parameters of acceptable behavior that they are all going to hell no matter what they do?
Regardless of LaBute’s sympathy or lack of it (for all I know, he could be a reprobate Mormon by now who no longer sees non-Mormon society as hell bound), “Dirty Weekend” is an engaging plunge into the mysteries of human sexual behavior. The two leads give phenomenal performances, and the supporting cast, especially Phil Burke as an all-knowing taxi driver, is top-notch.