Stella's Last Weekend
The familial comedy-drama can be a tough line to walk. Too sad, and the laughs seem out of place. Too funny, and the dramatic bits seem to be pandering to the emotions of the audience. Stella’s Last Weekend does a fine job of walking that line, but still lacks emotional engagement with the characters or the audience.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Stella’s Last Weekend is behind the camera. The film stars Nat and Alex Wolff, real life brothers and former Nickelodeon series costars. The two play brothers Jack and Oliver, who are home together for the weekend to say goodbye to beloved family dog Stella. Jack (Nat) is back from college and younger brother Oliver (Alex) is wrapping up high school and enjoying his time at home in Queens. Their mother in the film is played by their mother in real life (Polly Draper), who also happens to be the writer and director of the film. While it’s impossible for us to know what aspects of their relationships have not been fictionalized, a layer of intrigue sits atop the experience of watching the movie.
The reunion of brothers is initially a satisfying scene to watch. Their bond is clear and their affection for one another, filtered through teenage “bro” behavior, has its charms. But as they continue the weekend of bonding and name-calling, the nostalgia for their childhood fades away, and we’re left watching two fundamentally aggravating characters. They’re self-involved, immature, and unnecessarily competitive with one another. Though there are moments later in the film where Oliver is criticized for his immaturity, it’s openly celebrated in the beginning of the film as being indicative of his free spirit.
Beyond the imminent grieving for Stella, the brothers soon discover that they both have a thing for the same woman. Violet (Paulina Singer) is currently Oliver’s slightly older girlfriend, though we find out that she had a brief fling with Jack the previous summer. Jack tries his best to seem okay with the whole situation, but he’s clearly far from okay. Add in Oliver’s immaturity and inability to see Jack’s discomfort, and we have a string of awkward scenes with the three of them hanging out together throughout the weekend.
Inevitably, things between the brothers and their mother come to a dramatic climax. Though the film itself is not long, it drags, which makes it feel long. When we finally get some approach toward emotional resolution, it can’t justify the self-indulgence that has led to it.
An unnecessary side plot highlights some class issues in New York City amongst their friends. The young women in these scenes do their best Mean Girls impressions, but are completely disposable overall.
Perhaps I’m being overly sensitive toward characters that may appeal to certain people in the audience, but when I’m asked to spend too much time with young, vapid men, I expect far more in return than some jokes and the already planned loss of a family dog. Simply put, Stella’s Last Weekend offers no real reason to care for anyone other than Stella herself.