3-Day Weekend

TLA Releasing,

Rob Williams

Derek Long, Derek Meeker, Douglas Myers, Stephen Twardokus, Chris Carlisle, Gaetano Jones, Joel Harrison, Daniel Rhyder

Unrated, 85 minutes

Into The Woods
by Michael D. Klemm
Posted online, October, 2008

There is a long tradition of films about friends gathering for a weekend in the country; from Jean Renoir's Rules of the Game to Ingmar Bergman's Smiles of a Summer Night, Lawrence Kasden's The Big Chill and Terrence McNally's Love! Valour! Compassion! 3-Day Weekend, the new film by Rob Williams (Back Soon) is the latest variation on the theme, featuring eight attractive gay men, musical beds and enough drama to fuel a Greek tragedy.

Simon (Derek Meeker) and Jason (Douglas Myers) are a middle-aged couple who, along with their longtime friend Connor (Derek Long - Socket) and his "boy of the moment," spend long weekends together at a spectacular cottage in the woods. In Simon's words, it is always the "same place, same conversations, blah blah blah." This time they have decided to "shake things up" and each is inviting a friend. As the film opens, both Simon, and Connor's much younger partner Ace (Stephen Twardokus), are being coy and refusing to divulge the identity of their guests.

Let's introduce the supporting cast. Connor has invited Kevin (Gaetano Jones), his new-age yoga instructor who, upon arrival, rapturously remarks on the peaceful vibes and tells everyone how beautiful they are before giving each a big bear hug. Ace has asked his college chum Cameron (Joel Harrison) to join them. They were once an item - or at least fuck buddies. Cameron fills the requisite young hunk role who is always a fixture in these stories. Jason has invited a shy co-worker named Mac (Chris Carlisle) while his partner Simon sets chaos in motion by asking Andre (Daniel Rhyder), a frequently-visited hustler for whom he has developed feelings, to be his guest.

All of this provides the backdrop for a superb study of a longtime relationship in collapse. Simon and Jason have an open relationship and its limits are tested when Andre arrives and three of their weekend guests recognize him. Jason is not amused. ("You invited a hustler?") When he confronts his partner, Jason complains bitterly that he never brought one of his tricks home and accuses Simon of "rubbing [his] face in it" by flaunting his beautiful young conquest to remind him of his flaws. Simon responds by blurting out that he had no friends to invite and that he had to pay someone to come. The inevitable threeway eventually follows but the damage has been done. While all their guests are happily fornicating in their rooms, Simon and Jason sit at opposite ends of their bed and read books in silence.

Meanwhile, providing background color, Mac is sharing a room with the free-spirited Kevin - who feels no embarrassment walking around naked. Kevin pulls the shy milquetoast out of his shell and love blossoms between the two. Cameron, who brought glow sticks and body glitter because he was expecting "an all night, drug-fueled romp in the desert," tries to seduce his old pal and is unable to understand how Ace can be willing to settle for monogamy and, not only that, but also with such an "old guy." (The usual generation gap joke is apparent here because Connor, Simon and Jason are only in their forties.)

After enjoying a tryst with Andre, Cameron contemplates taking up prostitution as a career change and asks the hustler for advice. Connor, who had an older partner in his youth, is watching Simon and Jason's relationship implode and realizes that Ace may just be the second great love of his life. His young partner also feels the same love, but he fears being alone someday and asks if they will have at least twenty years together.

You can be cynical and call this film "Love! Valour! Compassion!- lite" (in fact, McNally's play is even mentioned during one discussion) but - for its first hour at least - 3-Day Weekend is a very moving and entertaining film. Sure, it follows the usual formula; a group of gay guys of assorted ages sit around and riff on various topics - with generous dollops of beefcake and the occasional flash of full frontal nudity - but the screenplay is rather witty and many truths are bandied about. There is a very relaxed and natural quality to most of the acting. Douglas Myers as Jason reminded me at times of actor John Glover; there is a remarkable scene where he cries that broke my heart. The cinematography features sumptuous scenery and carefully composed interiors. I especially liked the images featuring Simon and Jason's bed and how they visually conveyed the mechanics of their crumbling relationship.
There is, of course, humor mixed with the drama. Kevin provides much comic relief with his meditating and remarks like "Look at the sky. Can't you just feel the earth's life force around you?" But he is not played as a buffoon; there is dignity and this can be attributed to Gaetano Jones' fine understated performance. The scene where Ace, Cameron and Andre sit in a hot tub and speculate about Simon and Jason is funny without getting too rude. I also liked when the younger ones were talking about there being too many gay films about AIDS and Connor forever endeared himself to me by saying "All I know is that I'll take Longtime Companion over that Ethan Green twink any day."
Things stiffen up a bit though in the third act. Some of the dialogue gets a little clunky and stagy, especially compared to how fluid the first hour was. My cardinal sin is committed too - scenes are dragged out while we are forced to listen to some really banal acoustic ballads that turn out to have been written and performed by one of the film's stars. Well, at least there wasn't a cute montage accompanied by some bad bouncy pop song like there is in so many other indie films. Many directors just don't seem to realize how intrusive these songs can be, not to mention how they often serve to date the film. Remember, some scenes work better with silence.

Still, 3-Day Weekend's strengths outweigh the weaknesses. Director Williams has made a quantum leap forward from his last film, Back Soon, and I look forward to seeing more of his work in the future. It is funny, it is sad, and it's also very sexy. A brief shot of Derek Long as Connor taking off a leather harness will be seared into my consciousness forever. Kevin and Mac's fairly explicit love scenes are romance personified and the long threeway, when Jason walks in on Simon and Andre, is daring without being gratuitous. Such scenes are expected in movies like these but it's nice when they are artfully filmed and don't look like porn. All in all, nitpicking aside, 3-Day Weekend is a satisfying movie. It's not McNally, but it's close.


More on Rob Williams:
Back Soon
Long-Term Relationship
Make The Yuletide Gay
The Men Next Door
Out To Kill

Derek Long also appears in:
Make The Yuletide Gay

Also see:
Love! Valour! Compassion!