One of Netflix‘s latest original releases is The Weekend Away, starring Gossip Girl’s Leighton Meester. The thriller, based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Sarah Alderson, is currently the streamers top film following its March third release. However, while it may be raking in viewers, the same can not be said for plaudits.
The Weekend Away focuses on new mum Beth, played by Meester. Beth is going through a rough patch in her marriage when her best friend and newly divorced Kate whisks them both away for an all-expenses weekend in Croatia. After a night of clubbing, in which Kate tries to tempt Beth into cheating on her husband, the pair fall out. The morning after, Kate is nowhere to be seen, and later winds up dead. Beth then goes on a mission to uncover the secrets of her friend’s murder and expose the killer, all the while being treated as a suspect by the local authorities. The film is littered with twists and turns and red herrings. You can see the trailer below.
Like with many Netflix trailers, one can feel as if they’ve watched an entire film’s plot in the space of two minutes. Many will base their assumptions purely on this and it would seem it has done the trick in getting viewers to propel The Weekend Away to successful viewer ratings on the streaming service. This in part could be down to lead star Leighton Meester, whose days on hit teen drama Gossip Girl as Blair will likely have given her hordes of fans. However, while the viewership has been strong, the same cannot be said for the film’s critical reception.
As is the case with films in this day and age, the place to go to measure the reaction to a movie is Rotten Tomatoes. The film rating aggregator doesn’t paint the prettiest of pictures for The Weekend Away with a critical consensus score of 53% and an audience score of 45%. The former means that the film currently has the green splattered tomato icon next to its name, otherwise known as the rotten certification for a movie. One such critic who has contributed to this negative reception is Roger Moore of Movie Nation who had this to say as part of his 1.5 out 4 rating: “The plot works its way past red herrings and into anti-climaxes, never quite drowning in melodrama, but coming damned close, time and again.”
Another detractor of The Weekend Away is Robert Kojder of Flickering Myth who again calls out the twist and turns of the plot for poor quality, saying; “The issue is that, unfortunately, The Weekend Away does devolve into a series of goofy twists and contrived events that continuously undercut the messages the story is getting at. Every suspect is also played over the top, leaving little room for nuance, especially when characters start making drastic decisions that lack logic and purpose to such a degree it becomes apparent they are involved.” As well as this, Kojder calls out Netflix for offering up another ‘Netflix movie,’ a term he uses in what can only be described as somewhat dismissive. “If nothing else, The Weekend Away is a good excuse to turn off your brain for 90 minutes and enjoy a familiar vacation mystery with serious made-for-TV vibes. For better or worse, it is the definition of a Netflix movie.”
While the general reception of The Weekend Away may appear bleak, there is some solace to be taken by the director Kim Farrant that they pulled off an enjoyable movie. So far, Rotten Tomatoes only cites fifteen reviews from critics for the movie, with three of those being designated as ‘top critics.’ What is even more interesting is that the three so-called ‘top critics’ all held the film in higher regard, yet fall short of labelling the film as anything other than substantial home entertainment. Take, for instance, the words of Variety critic Dennis Harvey, who had this to say; “fast-moving enough to provide a decent night’s disposable home entertainment for viewers whose expectations aren’t geared any higher.”
Harvey’s sentiment is echoed by Adrian Horton of The Guardian who had this to say: “in a time of too many bloated, meandering, dry TV episodes and films, I found The Weekend Away’s brevity and swift clip of twists refreshing. It’s a thriller by name but less edge-of-your-seat than lounging on the couch, absorbing beats of plot like the ocean tide. A little provocation with slight commitment – that’s not a bad night in by any means.”
If one were to dive deeper into both of these slightly more positive reviews, they will uncover that the same negative flaws highlighted by other critics are still at play. Then again, could the film be hampered by an alarmingly slight ninety minutes run time? This is the sort of run time reserved for comedies, not thrillers stuffed to the brim with twists and turns. Perhaps that is why critics are calling the twists and turns out in a negative light? In the eyes of Netflix, this will likely matter not. With the film topping its charts it effectively has done its job with drawing views onto the platform. However, for leading lady Leighton Meester, it looks as if The Weekend Away will at best serve as a forgetful home movie rather than a career-defining moment. Undoubtedly she will be hoping for better in the future. Especially since her other 2022 project, Hulu’s How I Met Your Father, in which she appeared in three episodes, is also getting poor treatment from critics as well.