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A family’s Last Weekend by the lake

by Mark Burger

Maybe it’s simply the sheer number of films that involve a family (or friendly) gathering that turns into anything but restful, but Last Weekend feels like something we’ve all seen before. And, in one variation or another (August: Osage County, The Myth of Fingerprints, The Big Chill and even the shocker You’re Next “” in which a family got slaughtered), we have.

This admittedly picturesque melodrama, which marks the feature debut of screenwriter Tom Dolby “” who also makes his directorial debut alongside fellow first-timer Tom Williams “” is set at the bucolic lake-side vacation home of Celia and Malcolm Green (Patricia Clarkson and Chris Mulkey). It’s Labor Day weekend, and the kids are coming home and bringing friends and loved ones.

And, as the title implies, it looks like this might be their last Labor Day weekend at the house, as rumors are rife in the neighborhood that Celia and Malcolm are looking to sell.

Each character gets a moment in the spotlight, usually airing a complaint or an explanation (to the aforementioned complaint), as family secrets are revealed, old grudges unearthed (and usually re-buried) and confessions made. Yes, we’ve been here before.

For all its pretenses, Last Weekend is essentially a stagey soap opera, as Dolby’s pushy screenplay foists and forces its incidents upon the viewer. There are two life-threatening mishaps within the first days of the weekend (at least one too many), and though it’s never stated outright, there are several hints that Celia’s health isn’t in the pink. By the time someone starts singing an opera aria in the shower “” which everyone in the house can hear clearly “” the weekend really can’t end soon enough.

The sincere and earnest performances keep things somewhat leveled. Clarkson is always good, and the equally reliable (if sometimes overlooked) Mulkey brings a down-toearth solidity to his role of the patient patriarch. The round-up of friends and family includes Zachary Booth, Joseph Cross, Fran Kranz, Jayma Mays, Rutina Wesley, Devon Graye, Alexia Rasmussen (who bears a striking resemblance to “Dexter” actress Jennifer Carpenter), Judith Light, Sheila Kelley and the always-welcome Mary Kay Place, who makes a cheery entrance clomping out of the lake in a scuba outfit (!).

As tearjerkers go, Last Weekend might have a few viewers reaching for the Kleenex, yet it would have been more at home as a small-screen cable offering. !

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