You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Stella’s Last Weekend’

Rising star brothers Nat and Alex Wolff play siblings in a comedy so cruel, only a mother could love (or direct) it.

Polly Draper
Nat Wolff, Alex Wolff, Polly Draper, Paulina Singer, Nick Sandow.
Release Date:
Oct 12, 2018

1 hour 41 minutes.

Some parents pull strings to enroll their kids in their alma mater. In Hollywood, celebrity parents have been hammering together family showcases for their progeny — backyard plays elevated to the screen — and taking their own bows as writer, director, producer, or co-star. Earlier this summer was “The Year of Spectacular Men,” Lea Thompson and Howard Deutch’s salute to their daughters Madelyn and Zoey, and the most recent endowment is “Stella’s Last Weekend,” by actress-turned-filmmaker Polly Draper, which stars her sons Nat and Alex Wolff as two brothers dragged across the threshold of maturity over a dramatic weekend with one virginity loss, one fraternal betrayal, and one dying dog, the Stella of the title.

It’s inaccurate to consider “Stella’s Last Weekend” merely an expensive gift from Draper to her sons. Nat and Alex are both sought-after young actors who, since their days together on Nickelodeon’s “The Naked Brothers Band,” have starred separately in such hits as “The Fault in Our Stars,” “Paper Towns,” “Hereditary” and “Jumanji.” They’re in the position of saying no, not pleading for their mother’s yes. The irony is that Draper’s own skills would be better showcased herself if she had cast anyone else. The characters she’s created, Jack (Nat Wolff) and Oliver (Alex Wolff), are teen cads who yell at old ladies who dare to shush them at the ballet. They’re destructive, callous, petty, and cruel, the heroes of the film only by default because everyone else has been written to be worse. There’s a wasps’ nest of rich ballerinas the brothers love to irritate by, say, chewing a piece of sushi and spitting it in a dancer’s hand. But such rudeness is justified, the film says, because one of the girls has spread false rumors that she and Jack had a one-night-stand, a lie that makes no sense given the way she glares at him like a worm.

On paper, the script could be a skewering of adolescence sociopathy, a millennial “American Psycho,” sans all the murders. With other actors — ones who would have to earn empathy — “Stella’s Last Weekend” could even be good. The Wolffs are fine actors, and, no shocker, convincing siblings. But they’re playing characters, well, only a mother could love, and Draper beams such pure delight at the pair, such blinding admiration, that the movie trips over its assumption that the audience will adore them, too. Draper even models divine forgiveness, having cast herself as their widowed onscreen mother Sally, who’s dizzy, charming and delightfully unpredictable, the type to throw a funeral party for a dog. In one scene, she backs down from grounding Oliver and then whisper-begs him to apologize for calling her a “bitch.” Not even for her sake, but so that her live-in boyfriend Ron (Nick Sandow) will think she’s got parenthood under control. The boy smirks that she’s pitiful. She gratefully kisses him on the cheek.

“Stella’s Last Weekend” plays these scenes for light comedy, or at worst, a teasing rap on the knuckles. But it’s not slapstick or satire — the indie pop score is too sincere. Though the brothers take no one’s hurt feelings seriously, the film is devoted to theirs. Their trouble starts silently. Jack, the quieter and older of the two, spots a gorgeous girl across the subway platform. He says nothing — even the camera doesn’t dare approach her — but from a polite 20 feet away, the audience can tell that Violet (Paulina Singer) is radiant in her silver pleated skirt and snickers. Shortly after, Jack tells the extroverted-to-the-point-of-unhinged Oliver about the non-incident, that he saw a girl who broke his heart after a magical encounter at a party. And then Violet rings the doorbell and introduces herself as Oliver’s new girlfriend. Cue a love triangle, teenager-style, where big scenes take place over text messages or at an arcade claw machine or the beach, where Violet deals with the awkwardness by stripping to her underwear and plunging into the surf.

It’s a twist that’s way too parochial for a film set in Queens, made doubly implausible by insisting that of course Violet would be interested in a younger high schooler who dry humps everything, including Ron (twice). Meanwhile, as grown-up emotions and grown-up stakes are off the table, the audience can only half-heartedly interest itself in which brother will be the momentary blip of a bad boyfriend that Violet will forget by the time she turns 30. Still, Singer is a luminous, mature presence, at least until the script forces her to act otherwise for reasons neither she nor the film can explain, and to seem out-of-character even as they’re happening. Even overbearing, embarrassingly combover-ed Ron who we first meet flipping the finger at the dinner table, shifts personalities to mutate into someone lovable whenever “Stella’s Last Weekend” decides it’s time for a hug. As for Stella herself, the terminally ill dog, she gets the POV shot that sums up the film: an exhausted creature staring at two boys who ignore her life-or-death drama to fist-fight about something dumb.

Film Review: 'Stella's Last Weekend'

Reviewed online, Los Angeles, Oct. 8, 2018. (In San Diego Film Festival.) Running time: 101 MIN.

Production: A Paladin release and presentation of a Related Pictures production. Producers: Polly Draper, Ken H. Keller, Caron Rudner. Co-producer: Rosemary Lombard. Executive Producers: Bill Draper, Tim Draper, Fred Roos.

Crew: Director: Polly Draper. Screenplay: Draper. Camera (color): David Kimelman. Editor: Frank Reynolds.

With: Nat Wolff, Alex Wolff, Polly Draper, Paulina Singer, Nick Sandow.

More Film

  • Steve Golin The Revenant Spotlight Producer

    'Spotlight' Director Tom McCarthy Remembers Steve Golin as 'A Warrior and a Mensch'

    It was a brutal process to get “Spotlight” made. The movie was dead at least three times before we shot it because of financing problems, studio problems, deadlines, actors’ availability and the time of year we could shoot. There were moments when Steve and I were just going at it. We’d have hilarious late-night correspondence. [...]

  • "A War Within"

    SF Studios Scoops International Sales to 'Grandpas,' 'A War Within' (EXCLUSIVE)

    SF Studios has scooped international sales rights to Santiago Requejo’s heartfelt comedy drama “Grandpas” and Kasper Torsting’s WWI-set Danish love drama “A War Within” in the run up to Cannes. Both films are third-party pickups. “Grandpas” is a high-profile Spanish movie starring Carlos Iglesias (“Crossing Borders”), Roberto Álvarez (“Talk to her”) and Ramón Barea (“Everybody [...]

  • 'Gemini Man' First Trailer Drops With

    Will Smith Faces Off Against Himself in Ang Lee's 'Gemini Man' Trailer

    Will Smith battles a familiar antagonist in the official trailer for Ang Lee’s “Gemini Man” — himself. Paramount Pictures and Skydance Media dropped dazzling new footage of the futuristic sci-fi drama, scored to a haunting version of “Forever Young,” that sees Smith playing an elite assassin. Things get tricky when he finds out the man [...]

  • Werner Herzog

    Film Constellation Boards Werner Herzog's Japanese Film 'Family Romance' (EXCLUSIVE)

    London-based sales house Film Constellation has boarded Oscar-winning director Werner Herzog’s Japanese-language narrative film “Family Romance,” which will have its world premiere in the special screenings section at the Cannes Film Festival. Written and directed by Herzog, the movie was shot last spring and summer in Tokyo and Aomori, Japan, with non-professional actors (Yuichi Ishii, [...]

  • Avengers Endgame Box Office: Can It

    'Avengers: Endgame' Expected to Shatter Box Office Records

    “Avengers: Endgame” has its sights set on world domination. Disney and Marvel’s upcoming superhero epic should light the box office on fire when it launches this weekend, with the hopes of setting domestic, international, and global records. In North America alone, “Avengers: Endgame” is expected to earn between $250 million and $268 million in its [...]

  • Katie HolmesAT&T Presents: Untold Stories Luncheon

    Katie Holmes, Kal Penn Help Decide Winner of $1 Million Filmmaker Grant

    Tribeca Film Festival and AT&T gave one young filmmaker a million and one reasons to rejoice at the “Untold Stories” third annual competition. After a nerve-wracking 10-minute long pitch in front of over 850,000 live stream audience members and a panel consisting of celebrities and industry leaders, filmmaker Kate Tsang was awarded $1 million Monday [...]

  • Reed Hastings seen on day one

    Netflix CEO Reed Hastings' Compensation Jumps 48% to $36.1 Million

    Netflix chief Reed Hastings is being handsomely rewarded for calling the shots at the streaming giant. His compensation package, which is largely in the form of stock options, climbed 48% in 2018 to $36.1 million. That’s up from $24.4 million in the previous year. Hastings’ salary is a relatively modest $700,000, but his stock options [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content