“The very wealthy can illuminate a lot,” Patricia Clarkson mused.
She was at a screening in New York of her new film, “Last Weekend.” The actress plays Celia, the upper-class matriarch of a dysfunctional brood that includes two grown sons, played by Joseph Cross and Zachary Booth. When they get together for one weekend at their extravagant home by Lake Tahoe, long-simmering tensions between the mother and her children resurface. The film, which was shot at the real-life family home of writer and codirector Tom Dolby, is of a piece with “Blue Jasmine,” another recent film that explored the inner lives of the one percent, only unlike in that film, Clarkson’s heroine doesn’t fall apart in the end.
“You can have everything and absolutely nothing,” she continued her line of thought while sipping a glass of Champagne. “If you don’t have love and happiness, you have nothing. If you don’t have the love of your children, you have nothing as a mother.”
It’s a thought that resonated at the Cinema Society-hosted screening at the Tribeca Grand, where guests included Paul Haggis, Greg Kelly, Christopher Abbott, formerly of “Girls,” and Bryan Batt, formerly of “Mad Men.”
“I’m really worried about the empty nest syndrome coming up because my daughter’s 16 and already talking about looking at schools, so that’s already freaking me out,” said Nanette Lepore, a friend of Clarkson’s who had dressed her for the occasion. Her daughter, Violet, was by her side. Clarkson brought her own mother, Jackie, a well-known former politician in Louisiana. “I don’t like letting go. I’m a nostalgist and I like repeating fun times,” Lepore said.
The film’s younger cast members, Alexia Rasmussen and Fran Kranz among them, recounted several fun times of their own from when they were filming. “Hitchhiking is great in Lake Tahoe. I didn’t do it, but I picked up an old man. I drove him back to his house,” said Cross, who already has another mother-son dramedy under his belt, the 2006 “Running With Scissors.”
“It was like a working vacation,” Booth said. “All of the kids stayed in a motel together right across the street from the lake. We went swimming every morning. We went rafting. At first it felt like summer camp because none of us knew each other.”
Clarkson knows a thing or two about playing tough mothers — she was nominated for an Academy Award for playing one in “Pieces of April.” And at the after party at the new TriBeCa restaurant Washington Market Tavern, she was still acting the part of matriarch as her young flock reminisced about the raucous production in California.
She notably did not partake in any of their misadventures. “I had bourbon. Occasionally. But that led to no shenanigans. I did jump into Lake Tahoe,” she recalled. “And it’s colder than anything you’ve ever felt in your life.”