Aside from Patricia Clarkson, who is practically this movie's reason for being, the great virtue of "Last Weekend" is that it's exactly as it presents itself. It's about a wealthy California family's last weekend at their Tahoe lake house. The parents are somewhere in their late 50s, and their sons, who are visiting, along with some friends, are young adults at the start of their careers and that's really all there is to say about the story.
Audiences expecting - and dreading - the typical will wait in vain. Nobody's dying. Nobody has gone broke. Everything is fine. Money has long insulated these people from the normal worries that attend most lives, which means that the other worries, the bigger ones, move to the front of the line, such as the sense of time passing, of loss, of meaning and mortality. It's a great luxury to have only those things to contemplate, but neither are they easy things.
Easily, a certain class resentment could get in the way of some viewers enjoying these characters. It shouldn't, because if most of the people presented here are unbearable, they are unbearable by design. It's a curious thing that great privilege does not foster empathy, but rather self-pity, as if the realization that it's easy to be unhappy while possessing what everyone else wants is the perfect excuse to act like a jerk.
Patricia Clarkson is the matriarch, a gracious hostess with a barbed wit and a bohemian vibe, who walks through the movie as if confused about the two undeniable realities of her existence: 1) That she isn't young anymore; 2) That she is seriously wealthy. As she says, "Thirty years ago, I couldn't have imagined my life turning out like this."
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Her husband (Chris Mulkey) is a self-made man and a decent guy, but her sons are fairly awful. The gay son (Zachary Booth) snaps at her constantly, and her straight son (Joseph Cross) is cold and preoccupied. They show her no warmth and treat her with a vague disdain, as if she's somehow inauthentic and out of touch, when in fact they're the hothouse flowers. She, at least, had some kind of contact with real life.
If you look at "Last Weekend" as an attempt by the directing team (Tom Dolby and Tom Williams) to show us a group of lovely people, you will see it as failure. But if you look at it as a study of a certain kind of wealth and a certain kind of condition of life, it's satisfying. These are not any rich people, but a specific type of Northern California rich - they have good taste, they're liberal, they buy things made of bamboo, they support native craftsmen, and they are either genuine in their lack of self-satisfaction or they cultivate the illusion of that lack as some ultimate self-satisfaction.
Clarkson embodies the longings, doubts and confusions of such a woman, without judgment or excess sympathy. She is just there, a fact, and completely believable.