by Hiko Mitsuzuka
Patricia Clarkson heads an ensemble cast in Last Weekend, a dramedy about an affluent family reuniting for a Labor Day weekend that is, at times, so unbearably superficial, audiences may have a hard time relating to -- let alone sympathizing with -- characters too deeply invested in their own petty dramas and dilemmas.
Clarkson plays Celia Green, a woman struggling to let go of the past as she and her husband (a barely present Chris Mulkey) come to terms with selling their gorgeous vacaton home overlooking Lake Tahoe. Zachary Booth (Damages) plays oldest son Theo, a TV writer who brings along his Hollywood posse (True Blood's Rutina Wesley and a criminally underused Fran Kranz) and his new boyfriend Luke -- if you want to call him that -- a supposed one-night stand that has turned into a three-week "relationship." Younger son Roger (Joseph Cross) shows up with girlfriend Vanessa, whose only motivation throughout the weekend is to push her line of flavored water. (The Greens own a chain of gyms, which explains their wealth, and the bottled drinks would be a perfect fit!)
As for the plethora of other characters, Mary Kay Place and Sheila Kelley pop in as Celia's equally self-absorbed friends who'd rather fuss over which wine to pair with dinner than dwell on the well-being of the family's groundskeeper who just got electrocuted. (The scene is ambiguously written; are the filmmakers making fun of these one-percenters or attempting to portray them as real human beings?) Randomly thrown into the mix is Glee's Jayma Mays as Theo's celebrity BFF who's only function is to deliver a late-night pep talk. And then there's Judith Light, Celia's frenemy neighbor who's painted, by Celia herself, as a wretched woman but turns into a shoulder for Celia to cry/whine on in the end.
The only character who dares to shatter the proverbial glass ceiling is Roger, and actor Joseph Cross turns him into the most relatable (and frankly likable) figure among the bickering bunch. Having recently been fired for screwing up his company's finances, Roger brings to the fray a much-needed dose of reality -- but only for so long. Other times he's the poster boy for White Guilt, embarrassed by his family's riches
Directors Tom Dolby (who also penned the script) and Tom Williams have ultimately succeeded in creating a beautifully shot 94-minute Brooks Brothers/Pottery Barn ad populated with people who have nothing better to do than wallow in self-pity (someone actually asks "Are we good people?" after dropping over a hundred dollars at a farmers market and delivering some unwarranted gossip).
As for Clarkson, we're never quite sure why she's so distressed about selling the family home. Many of her lines come across as bitter and bitchy without much context. More than halfway through the film, I turned to my friend and asked, "Are we really supposed to care about her? Is she dying? Is this why she has such a huge stick up her ass?"
That said, no one gets sick, and no one dies. Thankfully.
What is killed, however, is the opportunity to genuinely connect with these characters. It's too bad that sympathy doesn't arrive until the last few minutes of the film when Clarkson delivers a poignant monologue that clearly expresses what Celia is going through, the pain all mothers feel as they watch their adult children continue to move on through life without them.
RATING: 2/5 stars
- Hiko Mitsuzuka (@TheFirstEcho)