Movie Review: “Last Weekend” Is All About The Perfect Dysfunctional Family

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Review by James McDonald

When an affluent matriarch gathers her dysfunctional family for a holiday at their Northern California lake house, her carefully constructed weekend begins to come apart at the seams, leading her to question her own role in the family.

There have been so many movies that incontestably follow in the footsteps of “The Big Chill” that it would be impossible to list them all. It set the bar for movies about family and friends reuniting after having been away from each other for many years and that’s a testament to the movie’s staying power after thirty years. The fact that it was abundant in vibrant and energetic performances only made the movie that more endearing. “Last Weekend” sets the obligatory tone when we are introduced to Celia Green (Patricia Clarkson), a headstrong and independent woman who lives with her husband Malcolm (Chris Mulkey) in their beautiful Northern California lake house, complete with a guesthouse for her housekeeper and caretaker, on the shores of beautiful Lake Tahoe.

It’s the Labor Day weekend and both their sons, Theo (Zachary Booth) and his boyfriend Luke (Devon Graye) and Roger (Joseph Cross) and his girlfriend Vanessa (Alexia Rasmussen), are flying in from out of town with their significant others along with some childhood friends. It’s quite apparent early on, that while Celia desperately misses her two boys, when they’re all together, she can’t help but criticize them, from their place of employment to their choice of lovers and she does it all in a roundabout sort of way and it’s this very reason that they don’t visit very often. Her criticisms don’t stop there however, she chastises both of their partners too, again, indirectly and we realize that she has never really let go of them.

In her eyes, they are still her little babies and she constantly worries about them when they are not around. Naturally, in a story of this ilk, everyone else has issues too. Roger was recently fired from his company and Vanessa is trying to get her own brand of flavored water into the marketplace while Theo and Luke, after only three weeks of dating after having met each other at a party, drunk, wonder if there is really any substance to their relationship or if it should have remained a one-night stand. As the weekend progresses, Celia gradually succumbs to the realization that she must move forward with her life and that her two boys must continue living their lives independently.

Despite the fact that the house is filled with happy childhood memories, she ultimately decides to sell it, knowing it is this very circumstance which is preventing her from moving forward. Patricia Clarkson gives a genuinely heartfelt performance as a mother who just cannot let go of the past and who wants everything to be the way it used to be. Chris Mulkey, who plays her husband Malcolm, sadly, doesn’t have much to do here but overall, the entire cast give favorable performances accompanied by some absolutely stunning cinematography by Paula Huidobro of Lake Tahoe and its beautiful surroundings.

In select theaters now

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James McDonald
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