IMDB Score – 7.4
Rotten Tomato Score – 64%
Academy Award Nominee for Best Actress – Meryl Streep
Academy Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actress – Julia Roberts
Directed By – John Wells
Starring – Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Abigail Breslin, Chris Cooper, Margo Martindale, Julliane Nicholson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewish, Dermot Mulroney, Misty Upham, and Sam Shepard
A look at the lives of the strong-willed women of the Weston family, whose paths have diverged until a family crisis brings them back to the Oklahoma house they grew up in, and to the dysfunctional woman who raised them.
I remember seeing the trailer for this, the one above, in theaters during the fall and thinking that it was going to be a drama fest filled with amazing actors doing fine work. Well, that’s exactly what I got. However, I ended up liking the film, mostly due to the fact that the “fine” work by the actors actually turned out to be outstanding work done by the actors.
Adapted from the successful Broadway play of the same name, the film takes place at the home of the Westons, a husband and wife with three middle aged daughters, played by Roberts, Nicholson, and Lewis. Each of them have their own unique qualities but what I find in common with all three is that they have had to put up with the same mother, played wonderfully (duh) by Meryl Streep. You know, when I saw that Streep was nominated again this year I kind of sighed and said to myself…again? Really? It’s not because I think she doesn’t deserve it. She does. Every time. She’s the greatest living actress and is definitely in the top five of all time. She’s incredible at what she does and carries this burden by being one of the most modest and caring people in the business. It’s just getting boring seeing her name on the ballots every year. By the time she hangs up her career she’ll probably have two or three more awards to her name. I’m actually starting to feel okay with that. She was pretty awesome in this but I think the Academy got it wrong when they gave her a nomination in the leading role. This isn’t really her film. This is Julia Roberts film, who gave the performance of her career. The fire coming off both of these two for the entire duration of the film was really fun to watch. It was like actual daggers were being hurled through the air with every sentence spoken. They were the highlight of the film that was chock full of acting highlights. It was like a musical for acting. There were these little five to ten minute intervals in between these songs of incredible acting from every single member of the cast besides Breslin and Mulroney, who just didn’t have big enough roles. It’s a film reminiscent of something like “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” except we have more people involved. It just may be the best acting as a whole I’ve seen all year.
The film itself was okay. There was so much drama that it became overwhelming at some times. There must have been at least seven or eight SERIOUS events that would normally cripple a family for a while all occurring within the course of a few days. It was a rapid fire machine gun of melodrama that frankly came off a bit overachieving but it certainly didn’t detract from the film. It wasn’t a distraction, more of an annoyance. There were some messages embedded inside that were nice touches but most of it are things we see, albeit carried out a bit worse, in every single episode of Law and Order or TV family drama. Had the film been four hours long I could have had more time to process the events and seen where they led but things happened and then disappeared when the next disaster or fight took place. It left me feeling a bit empty towards the end.
The direction was nice though. Wells had some beautiful shots in the soaked sunlight of the midwest while also using the darkness of the house to his advantage. Any scene involving Streep with her wig off were gorgeous and powerful. There were also clever shots using reflections to show the eventual progression of a character into somebody else. I’d like to see what he does next.
Overall I enjoyed the film. The acting in it is just A+. There really isn’t any way around it. The awards and nominations were deserved even though I feel Roberts should have been given more recognition as a leading role. It’s exhausting and funny, but a film worth watching if you’re into that kind of thing.
Suggested Viewing – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Savages, A Separation