STORY: A gripping melodrama about the lives of the Westons, who gravitate back to their Oklahoma hometown, the film is about the interpersonal relationships of this family during a crisis situation.
REVIEW: An old country house sets the scene for the proceedings in this movie, where Violet Weston (Streep) raised her three daughters – the aggressive Barbara (Roberts), the meek Ivy (Nicholson) and the flirty Karen (Lewis). Violet’s husband Beverly (Shepard) is an aging poet. Barbara has a pill addiction and is in the early stages of mouth cancer. One sweltering day, Beverly goes missing-presumed-dead. Distraught, Violet calls her sister Mattie Fae (Matindale) and brotherin- law Charles Aiken (Cooper) as well as her daughters.
The three sisters arrive. Ivy is single but Karen brings her latest boyfriend Steve (Mulroney) and Barbara gets estranged hubbie Bill (McGregor). Although no one knows that they’re estranged. A few days pass, after which the county sheriff shows up with the bad news: Beverly’s body has been found in the bottom of a lake. After the body is correctly identified by Violet, the family find themselves having to deal with each other in a way that most of them seem unprepared to do.
What follows is a series of interactions between family members that takes the term ‘family drama’ to a new level. The sleazy Steve, for example, tries to get into Barbara and Bill’s 14-year-old daughter Jean’s (Breslin) pants. Ivy tells Barbara that she secretly is in love with Little Charles (Cumberbatch, playing Mattie’s son). The film is full of angry exchanges and confrontations, mostly between the drugged-up Violet and Barbara, who gives as good as she gets.
At regular intervals, various crazy secrets of the family emerge. Streep stands out as the unbalanced matriarch. Roberts too is someone to watch out for. In fact, there’s not one weak link in the portrayals of this train-wreck of a family. The music by Gustavo Santaolalla (Brokeback Mountain, Babel) helps add to the dramatic tension in the film, generously laced as it is with dark humour and plot twists aplenty.