Genre: Drama
Director: John Wells
Cast: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Abigail Breslin, Juliette Lewis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dermot Mulroney, Chris Cooper, Julianne Nicholson, Margo Martindale, Sam Shepard, Misty Upham
RunTime: 2 hrs 10 mins
Rating: NC-16 (Coarse Language & Some Drug Use)
Released By: GV
Official Website:
Opening Day: 
23 January 2014

Synopsis: The story of the strong-willed women of the Weston family, whose lives have diverged until a family crisis brings them back to the Midwest house they grew up in, and to the dysfunctional woman who raised them.

Movie Review:

One cannot help but feel that perhaps Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning drama of family dysfunction may be better off being performed on stage and not brought to life on screen.

Don’t get me wrong. The cast turns in a fantastic performance. In the hands of lesser actors, this movie would have been a melodrama with characters that either are too theatrical or just plain.  

Meryl Streep’s Violet Weston is a tour de force. Streep succeeds in showing the vulnerability of an imposing matriarch who spews venom at her own family and puts them down so as to demonstrate that she has some form of control in her life even as she is succumbs to mouth cancer and her addiction to painkillers. It is difficult to pity such a vicious woman who is impossible to live with yet it is also difficult to hate this woman who has led such a tough childhood.  

While Julia Roberts turns in a commendable performance as Barbara, Violet’s most bitter daughter, it is Julianne Nicholson’s , Benedict Cumberbatch’s  and Chris Cooper’s nuanced performances that impressed.

As the daughter who is finally flying the coop and living for herself, Nicholson brings out Ivy’s suppressed personality through little moments such as a shy smile at her awkward, clumsy yet endearing boyfriend/cousin, Little Charlie (Benedict Cumberbatch). A lesser actress would likely have played Ivy as a weak wallflower. Cooper also turns in a touching performance as Charles, the reliable rock in Little Charlie’s life and the only other person who sees Little Charlie as a person and just as “that loser”. The fact that they are probably the nicest and most sane people in the entire movie makes the bombshell that falls upon them all the sadder.

Venom and sadness aside, there are moments of caustic humour delivered in witty lines such as when Ivy asks her mother, Violet if she ought to be smoking and Violet retorts, “Should anyone be smoking?”  Don’t go in expecting anything light-hearted. 

Movie Rating:

(Strong as this cast is, the theatrical nature of characters such as Violet and Barbara may be better suited to the stage rather than disturbingly tight close-ups of this movie)

Review by Katrina Tee

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