* * *
(Hard-hitting family conflict)
We saw the play a couple of years ago at 2nd Story Theatre, where most of the action took place around the dining room table.
The movie version opens up the story quite a bit but also puts a little distance between the members of the dysfunctional Weston family, forced to deal with the death of the father (Sam Shepard) and the deep-rooted resentments among Violet, the pill-addicted, bitter mother (Meryl Streep) and her adult children.
One ad for the movie calls it “wickedly hilarious,” not a term we would use. It is wicked, but far from hilarious as family members use the occasion to bring up their difficult childhoods and deep resentments toward their mother.
Leading the pack is the older daughter (Julia Roberts), who is in constant conflict with her mother, but in reality is much like her. There’s a plain daughter who is the only one that has stayed home to care for Violet. She is verbally abused by her and has a big secret to reveal, only to get a bigger one back.
The cast is terrific, beginning with Streep and Roberts, whose relationship rises to a boil.
Secrets are revealed. Resentment and anger affect all relationships. Harsh words are spoken. People leave. People disappoint people.
The conflict never lets up, as people are hurt and don’t fight fairly. Just when you think everything has been revealed, there is more to come, right down to the bitter, yet poignant conclusion.
Comedy? No. Tragedy? Yes.
You’ll be exhausted after two hours of infighting, but you will know that you have seen some fabulous acting.
Rated R, with profanity, sexual and drug references, and dialogue that is too heavy for children.