When the Westons come together to bury their father they are forced to face some very harsh truths. Mother, Violet (Streep), is heavily addicted to pain medication that in conjunction with her cancer treatment is causing her to effectively lose her mind. It is a sad sight and one that her absent children and extended family are clearly not equipped to deal with. The resultant dysfunctional showdown of parent versus children is the focus as we realise just how damaged they all are.
The theme of strong women is at the heart of everything on show and the female leads in Streep and Roberts deliver exactly what is expected of them. Streep’s character is an unholy mess as she spends her time off her face on prescription medication and verbally abusing any person that gets in her way. It is a good performance but it delivers a very one-dimensional personality that gives you little if anything to root for. In her daughter we see a mirror image with Roberts stepping up to the plate for the first time in a while. Already bitter and very controlling she is on the road to alienating her own child and siblings as she makes you believe every bit of bitterness pouring from her is real.
Going through the rest of the cast in depth would have us here all day suffice it to say there are some good performances in the mix with Chris Cooper in particular reminding us just how talented he is as a patient but undoubtedly frustrated husband.
Despite some solid performances the big issue with this film is the content and lack of light. A post funeral dinner is particularly uneasy with Violet unleashing on almost every person at the table, the focus on a young girl’s vegetarianism being the most uncomfortable and ugly moment. Every single relationship is tainted, almost every single person is ugly on the inside and no matter how sweet a moment might let you believe it’s going to be it is soon dragged back into misery. There is room for misery in film, don’t get me wrong, but there is just way too much of it on show and in honesty although there is a plot in evidence it feels a little haphazard in it’s construction.
Featuring two very strong performances and a good ensemble cast is not enough to save this very downbeat and unpleasant affair. Mean people being mean to each other just isn’t very entertaining.