Stella’s Last Weekend (2018) ☆☆☆(3/4): Two Brothers and a Girl

“Stella’s Last Weekend” is a modest but enjoyable mix between family comedy and romance drama. While sometimes predictable and contrived, the movie is funny and engaging mainly thanks to the unaffected chemistry among its main cast members, and I had a fairly good time with it even though I was occasionally distracted by its several weak aspects during my viewing.

Nat and Alex Wolff, who are brothers in real-life, play Jack and Oliver, two brothers who happen to be involved with an aspiring ballerina girl named Violet (Paulina Singer). Some time ago, Jack met Violet, and they became a bit closer to each other, but then they somehow became distant to each other to Jack’s bafflement. When Jack is coming back from his college for what is going to be the last weekend for a dying family dog named Stella, he spots Violet from the distance, but she does not see him, and he later tells his brother about that fleeting moment without mentioning her name.

Of course, it turns out Violet has been Oliver’s girlfriend, and that certainly leads to considerable awkwardness between Jack and Violet. As Oliver knows nothing about their relationship, Jack and Violet decide to hide their past relationship from Oliver, but, unfortunately, that turns out to be more difficult than they thought. As Oliver eagerly wants his brother to spend more time with him and Violet, Jack and Violet have no choice but to go along with Oliver, and, what do you know, they soon find that they still feel attracted to each other while Oliver remains oblivious to that.

As Jack and Violet try to deal with their difficult matter of heart, the movie doles out a series of nice comic moments to entertain us. There is an uproarious domestic moment involved with the recent boyfriend of Jack and Oliver’s single mother Sally (Polly Draper, who is not only the director/writer/co-producer of the movie but also the mother of the Wolff brothers), and then there is an amusing scene where Jack, Oliver, and Violet drop by a posh party held by Violet’s rich, haughty friend/colleague.

The movie also often becomes sincere and serious whenever that is required. When Jack confides to his mother what has been eating him, she gives a sensible advice although she probably knows what may eventually happen, and there later comes a brief but frank conversation between her and Violet. In case of an event Sally and her sons prepare for their dying family dog, it may look a little too cheerful and whimsical for some of you, but the movie handles that part with enough sincerity although feeling rather contrived during a supposedly dramatic moment.

Above all, the movie is supported well by its solid main cast members. Nat Wolff, who drew my attention for the first time with his substantial supporting turn in “The Faults in Our Stars” (2014), gives an understated performance which is complemented well by the livelier appearance of his younger brother, and he is also believable in his small, intimate scenes with Paulina Singer, who holds her small place well around her two co-performers as imbuing her character with enough sense of life and personality. Right from their first scene, we can sense the remaining emotions between their characters, and Wolff and Singer are particularly good when their characters suddenly come to follow their mutual feeling at one point in the story.

As another crucial part of the story, Alex Wolff, who recently gave a breakthrough performance as a deeply troubled son in “Hereditary” (2018), is also equally good while brandishing another side of his considerable talent. While his character is a bit too brash and annoying at times, we still can see a nice, likable kid behind his verbal bravado thanks to Wolff’s spirited performance, and we come to understand why Violet likes and cares about Oliver as much as his older brother. I have no idea on how much their acting overlaps with their real-life relationship, but Wolff and his older brother, who already played together in their mother’s TV series “The Naked Brothers Band”, click well with each other, and we always get a palpable sense of brotherhood whenever they are together on the screen.

Besides Singer, the other supporting performers in the film are also engaging on the whole. In addition to handling her film competently, Polly Draper provides a nice supporting performance as Jack and Oliver’s caring mother, and she has her own small moment when her character smokes marijuana along with Jack and then becomes a little sad and wistful about her life. As Sally’s earnest boyfriend who does not get along well with her two boys, Nick Sandow, who has been one of notable characters in TV series “Orange Is the New Black”, is effective in his small supporting role, and how his character turns out to be more generous and thoughtful than expected is one of small few surprises in the movie. In case of the titular dog of the movie, it steals the show even though it merely occupies its space, and there are a couple of nice scenes which will certainly appeal to you a lot if you like dogs.

Although it stumbles as hurrying its story and characters to the expected finale during its last act, “Stella’s Last Weekend” is still an amiable lightweight stuff which did its job as well as intended, and Nat and Alex Wolff show here that they are indeed new interesting actors to watch. Along with their mother, they bring some spirit and authenticity to the movie, and that is worthwhile to watch in my trivial opinion.

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