'Stella's Last Weekend': Film Review

An awkward family affair.

Nat and Alex Wolff play brothers in love with the same woman in this romantic dramedy written and directed by their real-life mother Polly Draper.

It's not surprising that the lead performers in Polly Draper's dramedy display an undeniable chemistry together. The writer-director appears in her film as the mother of siblings played by her real-life sons Alex Wolff and Nat Wolff, making the project feel very much like a family affair. Unfortunately, audiences may feel a bit left out, as Stella's Last Weekend seems like it was more fun to make than watch.

Reuniting after their days as The Naked Brothers Band, Nat and Alex portray Jack and Oliver, brothers whose familial bond is threatened by a love triangle. It seems that the younger Oliver is currently dating aspiring ballet dancer Violet (Paulina Singer), with whom Jack once had a brief dalliance and has been obsessed with ever since.

Jack learns of the relationship upon arriving home for the weekend from college. He's returned for a party celebrating the family's elderly dog Stella, who is on her last legs and is scheduled for euthanization. The event, to which all the neighborhood dogs are invited, is being arranged by the boys' mother Sally (Draper, of Thirtysomething fame), who, much to her sons' annoyance, has a new boyfriend, Ron (Nick Sandow). Very much the outsider in the home, Ron, who owns a fast-food restaurant named "Chicken Kitchen" about which he's constantly bragging, is relentlessly mocked by Nat and Alex for, among other things, his ridiculous comb-over.

To say that the film's storyline proves inconsequential is an understatement. Violet seems taken with both brothers, and the increasingly tense interactions between Oliver and Jack, the latter all too slowly becoming aware of his sibling's intense jealousy, never become very interesting (especially when they get into an all-out physical brawl). To take up the narrative slack, the pic features endless comic banter between the two brothers, which proves amusing for a while until it becomes to feel hopelessly forced. The sense of the movie's dialogue being contrived becomes even more palpable during the interactions between the siblings and their mother, which resemble an overwritten sitcom more than real life.

The film is most effective in its quieter moments. One touching scene involves Sally asking Jack if he has any pot, which at first gives the impression that we'll be subjected to an unbearably cutesy scene in which mother and son get high together. It turns out that Sally's real reason for the request is to provide some relief to Stella, hoping to ease the ailing dog's pain by blowing marijuana fumes in her face.

The Wolff brothers unsurprisingly display an easy rapport, although anyone who isn't already a die-hard fan may find it hard at times to tell them apart. Draper hardly seems to be acting with her frequent displays of affection toward them; Singer is a quietly charming presence as the girl confused about which brother she prefers; and Sandow makes the best of his hapless character, who, to the film's credit, turns out to be more substantial than a mere comic foil.

As for Stella, well, spoiler alert, she dies. But not to worry, as the production notes inform us that the rescue dog who plays her has been adopted by the Wolff/Draper clan. Now that's a happy ending.

Production company: Related Pictures
Distributor: Paladin
Cast: Nat Wolff, Alex Wolff, Polly Draper, Pauline Singer, Nick Sandow
Director-screenwriter: Polly Draper
Producers: Polly Draper, Ken H. Keller, Caron Rudner
Executive producers: Bill Draper, Tim Draper, Fred Roos
Director of photography: David Kimelman
Production designer: Jimena Azula
Editor: Frank Reynolds
Costume designer: Jemima Penny
Casting: Paul Schnee

102 minutes