Director: John Wells
Writers: Tracy Letts (Screenplay and Stage Play)
Production Companies: Weinstein Company, Jean Doumanian Productions, Smokehouse Pictures, Battle Mountain Films, Yucaipa Films
Stars: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Margo Martindale, Chris Cooper, Julianne Nicholson, Juliette Lewis, Dermot Mulroney, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch
What It’s About: A family tragedy brings the Weston family back together at their old Oklahoma homestead. Based on the play made for the stage by Tracy Letts.
How I Watched It: Alone in my apartment. Evening.
Thoughts: The Weston family is getting together again, and boy oh boy, is it entertaining to watch. The patriarch of the family, Beverly (Sam Shepard), goes missing. His wife Violet (Streep) calls her sister and all three of her daughters and tells them to congregate at the old homestead in Oklahoma. One thing leads to another and before too long we find out that good ol’ Papa is dead. These grieving family members have to try and get along long enough to not kill each other–more difficult than you might imagine for some.
HOLY DRAMA, BATMAN! The character dynamics in this movie are just…ridiculous. But the characters are written so well, that it all just melds together and makes sense. A few of the motifs that get touched on (not to spoil any specific details): pill addiction, suicide, incest, infidelity, divorce, drug usage, pedophilia, terminal illness, alcoholism, child abuse, mental illness, racism….I know there are more, but I’ll just stop there. That list just looks ridiculous, doesn’t it? You’re probably thinking, “You can’t lump all of that crap up into one script and have it work!” Well, you’re wrong! It works so seamlessly, that you don’t even take notice. I give that credit to great writing and wonderful acting.
Acting. I was a little concerned going into this movie because it had such a star-studded cast. Sometimes a list of A-list actors can lend a hand to a film, but sometimes it can be detrimental. The casting for this movie just nailed it on the head.
First of all: Meryl. Her character is an old-fashioned hag of a lady who’s dealing with mouth cancer by popping as many prescription pills as she can get her hands on. She. Is. Nasty. There are so many moments where I find myself wondering if she’s being rude and awful to her children because she’s on too many drugs, or if she’s just cranky. But they also touch on the fact that somewhere along the line, something went not-so-right in her upstairs department. She’s tormented…and sad…and lonely. She’s just…incredibly complicated, but played so well by Mrs. Streep. Always so many kudos to her.
Julia Roberts has never been my favorite actress. It’s been a good while since I’ve seen something that I really enjoyed her in. Well, this is probably the best role I’ve seen her in for some time….maybe ever. She plays Barbara, the eldest of the three sisters. She’s having marital problems and dealing with a teenage daughter at home, and to top it all off, her precious father just died–and she isn’t her mother’s biggest fan. She becomes the pseudo-matriarch while her mother is having a breakdown (so…forever). It’s so nice to see her grungier side–she’s not all dolled up and being her usual romantic-comedy self. There are so many fantastic scenes between her and Meryl. They just play off of each other so well in this. And believe you me, there are scenes when shit. hits. the. fan.
I could talk about how I loved each and every actor/character in this movie, but I won’t. Such a great ensemble cast. Also, I’d like to point out that the three sisters are played by Julia Roberts, Julianne Nicholson, and Juliette Lewis. The casting director must have a thing for names that start with Juli-. Just a weird coincidence, I’m sure.
My Rating: Huzzah!!
If you think your family is screwed up, just watch this. You’ll feel 10 times better about yours. Be prepared for a dramatic ride with this one.