In alignment with popular opinion, I’ve loved Leighton Meester (“Semper Fi”) ever since she charmed viewers as the spoiled and scheming fashion empire heiress Blair Waldorf in “Gossip Girl.” The intense manner in which she carried herself drew the viewers to believe the manipulative and diabolical nature of her character while simultaneously making her a fan-favorite to this very day. And I, among others, was excited for Meester’s return. Her newest film, “The Weekend Away,” is a positive indication of a strong comeback, showcasing a side of her acting not widely recognized among fans. The film itself is adapted from the novel by Sarah Alderson and details a mystery-thriller following a young woman’s sudden disappearance in Croatia. Based on her previous work and the acting she delivers to this adapted screenplay, Meester does not fail to deliver an immensely solid performance that allows the viewers to experience firsthand the emotions she portrays.
“The Weekend Away” has a widely engaging plot, documenting the journey of a new mother searching for her lost friend after her disappearance on their weekend getaway to Croatia. The main character Beth, played by Meester, is forced to unravel the unsettling details behind her friend Kate’s disappearance (Christina Wolfe, “Very Very Valentine”) and is almost convicted of the crime herself in the process. The troubling tale is riddled with plot twists that leave the viewers betting on the culprit until the very end. As the pressure mounts and time strains to find the truth about Kate, Meester does a phenomenal job portraying the emotional downfall of her character, leaving an eerie suspense that is resolved towards the end of the movie. The film thrives off of her raw emotion looming throughout, bringing the straightforward script a higher level of complexity and realism that was necessary for the film’s success.
While I believe the premise of this movie itself is particularly engaging, Meester’s elevation of the emotional intensity in this film is something that is also prevalent in all of her past works. Through the years, Meester was always able to give substantial performances in subpar films received negatively by viewers and critics. Some of her more popular films partially flopped, being described as “crude,” “stupefyingly predictable,” “spineless” and overall lackluster by critics. Yet, none of these reviews bashed Meester herself. Time Magazine critic Mary F. Pols remarked that “both its stars — particularly Meester, who has something, although she herself has perhaps not yet figured out what — deserve better” regarding Meester in “The Roommate.” This idea is also supported by the outpouring of support Meester has been receiving on social media. There were no complaints about Meester’s acting abilities, with one Twitter user mentioning “she delivered a good performance here despite the thin plot and predictable twists.” Her wide fan base was in complete support of the movie, and I wouldn’t be surprised if most people only watched it to see how the beloved actress was doing now. It would have been easy for a film like this to fly under the radar and lack an engagement of popular intrigue, but Meester herself carries an allure from her past role in “Gossip Girl” that ensured me she would bring a level of deeper complexity to the somewhat shallow plot.
The movie itself is filled to the brim with surprising plot twists, and its minimal level of predictability is paired with impressive acting. Meester truly showcased her range in acting abilities by bringing this film to life through a level of fear and thrill that was not displayed in her past iconic role. Her additions to the film made me glued to the edges of our seats and completely captivated by every intense setback, making “The Weekend Away” a valuable and worthwhile movie to consider watching. It is undeniable that Meester is an extremely talented actress, bringing her A-game to every movie she tackles. But I can safely say that for me and many others, she will always remain the iconic Blair Waldorf. And that’s not a bad thing.
Daily Arts Contributor Zara Manna can be reached at email@example.com.