Tracy Letts Pulitzer winning play decries family sanity. This big screen adaptation, produced by George Clooney’s company, is reminiscent of Tennessee Williams.
Meryl Streep plays Violet, the matriarch of a divided and fractured family living in Oklahoma. She has mouth cancer and takes pills to dull her senses, pills taken long before the cancer had begun ravaging her body. When we first see Streep she appears to be high on drugs with little hair. She wanders unstably around her dark home whilst her husband, (Sam Shepherd) takes refuge in alcohol.
After her husband’s disappearance and subsequent death, Violet’s daughters make the journey to be by their mother’s side. During the funeral meal Violet takes aim at her daughters saving her most acerbic comments for Barbara (Julia Roberts), her eldest daughter, whose marriage is falling apart. Her husband Tom (Ewan McGregor) and daughter (Abigail Breslin) are both by her side, but have little time for her.
Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) is the only daughter that stayed close, having endured much in caring for her parents, but Violet has little time for her. Her youngest Karen (Juliette Lewis) rarely sees her family and is about to marry a wealthy businessman with shady dealings (Dermot Mulroney). It will be his fourth marriage, something that is not lost on Violet. Each daughter has coped with the terribleness of their mother in different ways.
The Family is joined in their grief by Violet’s sister Mattie Fae (Margo Martindale) and her husband Charles (Chris Cooper), whose son Little Charles (Benedict Cumberbatch) is uncertain and insecure, mostly brought on by his mother’s apparent disappointment in him.
There is nothing united about this family gathering. The relationship between Violet and Barbara is at constant discord. Yet however much they despise each other there are undeniable similarities. As Barbara spends more time with her mother, these similarities are revealed along with long held dark family secrets. The two begin to mirror each other.
Meryl Streep shines in this film, but it is Julia Roberts that comes into her own. Gone are the ditsy romances she became known for. She portrays Barbara with both strength and outrage in equal measure. There is nothing glamorous about her role and she pulls it off brilliantly.
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