×
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.

Director:
Polly Draper
With:
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

  • Lucas (Jonah Hauer-King) and Bella (Amber)

    China's Bona Film Boards Brad Pitt's 'Ad Astra,' 'A Dog's Way Home' (EXCLUSIVE)

    China’s Bona Film Group is co-financing Brad Pitt space adventure “Ad Astra,” one of several films in a strong slate of international movies the company plans to release in the Middle Kingdom over the next year. Bona has also acquired Roland Emmerich’s war spectacular “Midway” and is investing in “A Dog’s Way Home,” the sequel [...]

  • Aquaman 2018

    Film News Roundup: 'Aquaman' Sets Pre-Sales Record

    In today’s film news roundup, “Aquaman” sets a pre-sales record, “Bohemian Rhapsody” hits a milestone, and SAG-AFTRA promotes four executives.  PRE-SALES RECORD More Reviews Film Review: 'The Quake' Film Review: Clint Eastwood in 'The Mule' “Aquaman” has set a pre-sales record for Atom Tickets, topping “Deadpool 2,” “Avengers: Infinity War,” and “Black Panther.” “Clearly, ‘Aquaman’ [...]

  • 'Liga' Kicks Off At Ventana Sur's

    Ventana Sur: 'La Liga' Kicks Off at Buenos Aires' Animation!

    Spain’s Quirino Awards, Argentina’s Animation! and Mexico’s Pixelatl Festival, three key events in Ibero-American animation, will join forces to create La Liga (The League), as announced Wednesday at an Animation! round table hosted by the Quirino Awards, titled “Iberoamerican Alliance Models.” Speakers included Quirino Awards promoter José Luis Farias, Mexico’s Pixelatl director José Iñesta, Gonzalo [...]

  • The Quake Review

    Film Review: 'The Quake'

    Roar Uthaug’s 2015 “The Wave” revived the pleasures of the 1970s disaster-movie cycle in a form that seemed purer than the never-quite-dead genre’s recent Stateside incarnations — most of which seem to involve Dwayne Johnson in a generic pileup of CGI perils. “The Wave” wasn’t high art, but it was entertainment that delivered some standard [...]

  • The Mule trailer

    Film Review: Clint Eastwood in 'The Mule'

    From Dirty Harry to … dirty grandpa, Clint Eastwood certainly has a type of character that he plays best, and “The Mule” finds him squarely in his comfort zone, appearing as a surly old horticulturalist who, at age 90, has become perhaps the most reliable drug runner for the Sinaloa cartel, evading detection for nearly [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content