‘Last Weekend’: A house crowded with vacuous people

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By Randy Cordova/Gannett News Service

“She can smell fear,” one character huffs about Celia Green, the matriarch of an affluent Lake Tahoe clan in “Last Weekend.”

If only. A little fire might have made the character interesting. As played by Patricia Clarkson, she’s simply brittle, air-headed and weirdly class-conscious. The property’s Hispanic caretaker is “like family,” but not family.

Celia gathers the family together for a Labor Day weekend, starting with her husband (Chris Mulkey) and two adult sons (Zachary Booth and Joseph Cross). Throw in each son’s romantic partner, a pair of friends and a TV star, and a viewer needs a dance card to keep track of the players.

You’ve also got the caretaker and his wife; a lesbian couple, and Veronika, a nouveau riche neighbor (a spirited Judith Light). The Greens are also nouveau riche, but apparently not as nouveau.

The characters flutter about, argue and flirt, but they are simply too bland and vacuous to make much of an impression. It doesn’t help that half of them serve no purpose other than to fill the camera frame.

An effort to add some tension comes with the possibility of Celia selling the family’s beloved home, but even that feels like a mere plot device rather than anything concrete. There are clumsy bits about the melancholy of growing older — Labor Day marks the end of summer, don’t you know? — but it adds little to the already overstuffed package.

[s3r star=2/4]

IFC Films presents a film directed by Tom Dolby and Tom Williams and written by Dolby. Running time: 94 minutes. No MPAA rating. Opens Friday at the Gene Siskel Film Center.

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