TIFF Review: Stella Meghie’s ‘The Weekend’ Is Witty, Raw & Proves That Three Is Always A Crowd

September 20th 2018

Everything can change over the course of three days, as is chronicled in Stella Meghie’s biting comedy The Weekend. Struggling stand-up comedian Zadie (Saturday Night Live alum Sasheer Zamata) is 29, and — as she puts it — "extremely single." Regrettably, Zadie's nonexistent love life is mostly for lack of trying on her part. When she isn’t busy trying out new material on stage, she’s still pining over her ex-boyfriend turned reluctant friend Bradford (Tone Bell), even though they haven’t been together romantically in three years.

To make up for skipping out on his birthday soirée for loftier plans — like eating an entire pizza and wallowing in self-pity, Zadie gifts Bradford with a first edition, signed copy of W.E.B. Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk. She also invites him on a weekend getaway at her parents' bed and breakfast in picturesque northern California. Much to Zadie's disdain, Bradford invites his girlfriend, Margo (DeWanda Wise) along as well. Bougie and well-put-together, Margot knows exactly who she is. Meanwhile, Zadie — who is still trying to figure her life out — can’t take it. It’s a disaster waiting to happen.

Things start off on the wrong foot  before the trio even arrives to the bed and breakfast. However, their trip takes an intriguing turn when a single, very sexy guest named Aubrey (Insecure’s Y’lan Noel) arrives, and takes an interest in the plucky, self-deprecating Zadie. Zamata and Noel’s scenes together  are some of the best of the film, and stand out because they allow audiences to see Zadie in her own light without Bradford's shadow cast over her.

Though her humor is zippy and sharp, and her deadpan expressions elevate her remarkable ability to throw shade, is Zadie just not a likable character. Her self-deprecation, self-absorption and Peter Pan syndrome is borderline exhausting. Halfway through the film, the audience is sure that she and Bradford — a f*ckboy who has obviously only been her hanging around to stroke his ego — deserve each other. This is something that Margo seems to slowly realize, as well.

DX4bYRrUMAAN-M3 Source: Stella Meghie

In addition to Zadie’s aura of desperation and wisecracks about Margot, her mother Karen's (Kym Whitley) sensational one-liners about her daughter's appearance keeps the first two acts of The Weekend afloat. However, the it’s the final moments of the film that truly sparkle.

After dancing around their history over the course of the entire weekend, Bradford gets more riled up by Aubrey’s presence and electric chemistry with Zadie. Bradford and Zadie finally have a much-needed emotional conversation where they lay it all out there. For better or for worse, this discussion seems to be the most honest conversation the pair has ever had. This moment of resolve immediately settles the tone of the film.

Another refreshing moment of honest communication occurs as Zadie comes to the realization that everything isn’t as it seems in her parents' marriage. She and her mother have a rather frank, come-to-Jesus moment, where Karen tells her only child to grow up.

"Your problems aren’t more interesting than anyone else's," she says to Zadie.  

Although Zadie doesn't become an entirely new person as a result of the conversation with her mother,  it is the kick in the ass she needs to wake up.

As a character, Zadie might be a hot mess. But Meghie’s writing and Zamata’s performance help save her from herself. Shot sharply in a scenic country setting with an intensely likable cast, Meghie has mastered the ability to charm her audiences with her material, and the strong performances from all of the actors keep the characters from completely crumbling under the weight of their own nonsense.

With just an 86-minute run time, The Weekend felt almost uncomfortably realistic — like watching one of your best girlfriends make a fool out of herself with the same-old, tired man. Luckily, Meghie and the cast’s ability to tap into a great deal of humor with a whole lot of energy helps to minimize the cringeworthy aspect of  some of the unfortunate circumstances the characters find themselves in.

The Weekend premiered Sept. 11, 2018, at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Aramide A. Tinubu is a film critic and entertainment writer. As a journalist, her work has been published in EBONY, JET, ESSENCE, Bustle, The Daily Mail, IndieWire and Blavity. She wrote her master’s thesis on Black Girlhood and Parental Loss in Contemporary Black American Cinema. She’s a cinephile, bookworm, blogger and NYU + Columbia University alum. You can find her reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, read her blog at www.chocolategirlinthecity.com or tweet her @midnightrami.

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