“Beautifully Dysfunctional” 9/10
I was excited to see this film, having seen the play a few years ago at the theatre where I worked. I was captivated by the story and the tense style of the setting and was curious to see whether the same effect could be created on screen, and I wasn’t disappointed. Set mainly in a dark, stuffy house, you get an instant feel for the back story of secrets and suppression as soon as it begins.
The film opens quietly but throwing you instantly into the turmoil of the main character Violet, portrayed by Meryl Streep, and her dysfunctional family. As the story begins to unfold you get a real sense of the afflictions facing each character and the scenes and dialogue flow from one spilt secret to the next, and it is captivating to watch Streep wholeheartedly embrace the role. The acting and setting really bring this story to life: watching, I felt like I experienced every emotion and heartache; and got an overwhelming sense of the mania of being trapped in the Weston household, just as I felt watching it on stage. The acting is first class: Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts are on top form and I felt this was one of their best performances. Impressive performances were also given by actors that I am less familiar with such as Chris Cooper, Margo Martindale, and Juliette Lewis. Surprisingly though my heart was stolen away by one of the smallest characters through an incredibly sweet and humble performance by Benedict Cumberbatch. I’m a fan of his other work and it was enjoyable to watch him in a role that is so far away from his recent characters – portraying the awkward but endearing role of Little Charles.
Tracy Lett’s story flows beautifully, although it is very dialogue-heavy so if you’re more of an action fan you may get restless. There are also plenty of plot twists and turns which keep you captivated. The culmination of the film is dark and edgy and full of emotion, and I’m still in two minds about whether I found the ending satisfying, but in a way the not-so-perfect final scene is fitting for such a raw piece. The style reminds me of Silver Linings Playbook (2012) in the way it makes you feel like you’ve lived through it whilst watching the story, and I would definitely recommend this film if you enjoyed that. This isn’t a typical happy ending film but it is refreshingly real and beautifully portrayed.