Tuesday, 14 January 2014


Julia Roberts is Barb. She's turning into her mother, regrettably, though without the drug addiction. And with a steely sense about her that tempers the tidal wave of familial revelation about to hit her. Roberts might be at her very best here. Ewan McGregor is Bill, her separated partner. He's there to give her character some personal conflict. He should have kept his Scottish accent. Abigail Breslin is Jean, their daughter. She's an idealistic adult's concept of a teenage girl, and Breslin's performance is a teenager's concept of some adult ideas. Dermot Mulroney is Steve, who takes a liking to Jean. Mulroney knows his place. We should be thankful for that. Juliette Lewis is Karen, his fiancee and Barb's sister. She's the tacky, theatrical one. There's always one, right? Well, maybe in the theatre. Actually, in the theatre, there's normally many more than one. Julianne Nicholson is Ivy, another sister. She's the sensible, level-headed one. Since the goal here appears, for the most part, to play your character as your character would play themselves, it's no wonder Nicholson comes off the best. Sam Shepard is Beverly. He intones T.S. Eliot, which is as intelligent as this melodramatic film gets, though he's quick to point out that this is barely an Eliot reference at all, which is perhaps actually more intelligent. Benedict Cumberbatch is Little Charles, his nephew. Save his first scene (because everyone needs at least one SCENE), he exists to fuel action among other characters. Chris Cooper is Charlie, his father. I've never got the whole Chris Cooper thing. He's always just a bit Chris Cooper-y to me. Margo Martindale is Mattie Fae, his wife and Little Charles' mother. She's the comic relief, until she's not. Martindale knows how to balance comedy and drama as well as anyone. Meryl Streep is Violet, her sister, Beverly's wife and the mother of Barb, Karen and Ivy. She's a maniacal, vindictive prescription drug addict, overbearing and overacting, and, worst of all, grieving. Streep is a clever actor, we can see. She's just not clever enough to trust that we can. It's mesmerising, and kind of repulsive, and extremely ill-advised. And Misty Upham is Johnna, the maid, with her shovel. She could have taken that shovel to every single one of this lot. At the least, it would have saved me writing this review.