Watch new Netflix thriller "The Weekend Away," and the idea of a staycation may suddenly be much more appealing than an elaborate getaway.
Beth, Leighton Meester's character in the movie, arrives to Croatia with the intention of unwinding with her best friend, Katy (Christina Wolfe). The trip marks a milestone: It's her first weekend away away from her newborn daughter (hence the title).
Relaxing vacation, it is not. Instead of meandering down charming cobblestone roads, Beth spends much of her time in an interrogation chamber across from two police officers. After a night out, Katy is missing — and Beth has no memories of what happened.
Meester spoke to TODAY about the gripping film and how Beth compares to one of Meester's most famous characters, Blair Waldorf.
The ending will surprise you — or maybe it won't.
Speaking to TODAY, Meester says she hopes audiences are as disoriented as Beth is while watching the movie build to its surprising conclusion. "I'm most excited for people to (suspect) everyone," Meester says.
While encountering the movie's many red herrings, Meester encourages audiences to believe their own judgment. "Trust your gut and instinct," she says. Her advice echoes what Zain (Ziad Bakri), a taxi driver, tells Beth in the movie as he helps her find an answer: "Never trust people: Only your instincts."
So if you're planning to emulate Sherlock Holmes while watching "The Weekend Away" and search for a suspect, Meester recommends going with your first guess. "Maybe who you suspect it is, maybe that’s who it was in the first place." Then she pauses, to leave room for mystery: "Or not. Who knows."
"The Weekend Away" is based on a book.
The film was adapted from a novel by Sarah Alderson, who also wrote the screenplay. Meester decided not to read the book beforehand so she could come to the character without judgement or a list of book-to-movie changes changes. For example, the book version is set in Lisbon and the character in Beth's position is named Orla.
However, Meester did have an expert on-hand to consult for the character's arc, which remained consistent between projects: The author herself. Alderson joined the production on set in the Croatian cities of Dubrovnik, Split and Zagreb.
"She was always on deck to answer questions help me define the character whenever I needed," Meester says.
The movie was filmed in Croatia, and out of order.
Over the course of the movie, Beth begins to deteriorate. She can no longer trust herself, let alone the people around her. Meester says these "emotionally challenging" scenes were filmed first.
"It was ... interesting to shoot it backwards, particularly the interrogation scenes where I am fighting to say 'I’ve been accused of something I didn’t do' or, 'I’m not sure but I’m pretty sure I didn’t do it," Meester says.
After those scenes were finished, Meester's co-star Wolfe joined the set in Croatia, and Meester could relax a bit. "It was really huge blessing (to shoot backwards) because I got to get it out of the way. I got to have a little bit more of a lighthearted time," Meester says.
Meester says Beth couldn't be more different from Blair Waldorf — but she related to her.
Meester is perhaps best known for her time as Blair Waldorf, the queen bee of the original "Gossip Girl," which ran on the CW from 2007 to 2012.
Even if the movie's plot is as gripping as any episode of "Gossip Girl," Meester says Blair would likely never find herself in a situation like Beth's.
"She’s wealthy, she probably has a lot more connections, she probably wouldn’t even be staying at an Airbnb. All those things. I don’t know if that would exactly happen to her to begin with," Meester says.
Beth may be worlds away from Blair, but she's similar to someone more important to the film: Meester herself. When Meester encountered the "The Weekend Away's" script, she immediately related to Beth. Like Beth, Meester was a 35-year-old mother with a 10-month-old baby at the time (Meester also shares a six-year-old daughter with husband Adam Brody).
"I really like the variety of playing (a character) that not only is different but maybe more true to who I am at this moment in my life," Meester, who is a mother of two, says.
So while she’s never had a weekend away quite like this one, Meester could empathize with Beth, given their similarities. “I could connect to how anybody would feel in that situation, how I would feel in that situation — which was desperation and frustration,” she says.