Dysfunctional doesn’t even begin to cover it…
Synopsis: Raised by the mentally impaired woman they call their “mother”, 3 strong-willed daughters return back to Oklahoma after a serious crisis occurs. Women are all sugar and spice…right?
What really caught my attention even before I started the movie, was the star-studded cast. This usually leads to the saying , “Too many cooks spoil the broth”, but I was pleasantly wrong.
Let’s get straight to the point: I have never seen a movie so devoted to trashing men in general. From the first scene itself, we see Violet Weston stretch the word “woman” into something that actually sounds like “woe-man”. Bit of a give away, isn’t it? I mean, the amount things that are wrong with the men in the movie? Shall I give a list? Here’s a list:
- Poor Little Charles Aiken- he doesn’t even deserve the respect of being called a man with “little” being insisted in front of his name
- Criticised for watching TV and drinking beer- even when relaxing
- Bill Fordham is the reason why his daughter is smoking and is leaving Barbara Weston for a younger gal.
- All the women envy men for “not growing ugly and fat” when older
- Can’t even say grace properly before a meal
- At one point, Violet blames her husband for being selfish for killing himself!
Doesn’t really paint a positive light on the male population…but neither on the female. I thought I was going to puke with the constant complaining and antagonizing by the women, me being female myself. It was appalling. But this actually happens in the real world. I agree, women should be treated equally, but that doesn’t mean we should expect “special” treatment as well. In the film, if it’s not okay for a guy to strip down to his shirt front at the table, then it shouldn’t be okay for the women to be wearing bath robes. You get the idea. I am sure this was intentional in the film; to expose the bitter-sweet ideals of our society. But they may have over done it a bit in this film; it just made the women seem monomaniac with loathing men and Meryl Streep appeared to be in screaming mode 95% of the time.
“Why can’t you call people what they want to be called?” is a running theme in the film. Basically, why can’t people be who they want to be? Everyone is constantly trying to prove themselves to other people that they aren’t who people say they are. Constantly. Bill to Barbara, Violet to Barbara, Ivy to Violet, Little Charles to his mother… At face value, I got irritated with it but then I came to realise we do this all the time in our daily lives, I wonder how sad it must seem to other people…then I thought “hang on, if everyone is busy proving themselves, then the people who we are trying to prove ourselves to won’t even notice because they are probably doing the same thing, too”. It is a huge risk putting such a raw human quality into the film because not everyone will necessarily glimpse the reality of the situation; most people may think “this is too depressing/overwhelming. I’m going to watch a rom-com”. And I appreciated the director’s take on the characters. But just barely. I could tell that this script was made for broadway- and should have stayed at that. It was too theatrical to be a film, too long-winded..
The chemistry between Ivy Weston, played by Julianne Nicholson, and Little Charles, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, was so upsettingly pure . I nearly had a coronary when I found out they were brother and sister. I can’t even begin to fathom what a traumatic experience that must be. But this movie was so honest and tragically real, in that, it took literally every family issue that could ever occur and stuffed it into 2 hours; from the fighting, swearing and divorcing to the suicide, drugs and accidentally falling in love with your own half-brother. It must have really hit home for some people and that breaks my heart.
There were these little moments that don’t seem so significant at first glance but really, they are the basis of the movie. The Native Indian that is always watching over the family- there’s even a graffiti of a Red Indian when Charlie Aiken goes to pick up his son, as if Johnna is their guardian angel. Then there is mention of the invaluable books and references to writing- all symbols of knowledge, power and wisdom. When Jean Fordham brought up how by ingesting animals, we are devouring their fear…or when Barbara said that family is a random selection of cells that happen to meet- that sent me reeling. These small points that were made, they don’t seem to mean much, they are just random sentences floating in all of time and space…but that is the sheer genius of it. See, the movie begins with a quote from T.S. Elliot, where Beverly is commending the poet for being the only one brave enough to write ““life is very long”. But the special moments I mentioned above? This film is one of the bravest to speak aloud these things. Utter brilliance right there.
I have to especially point out Meryl Streep’s acting. I was so impressed I could barely keep my eyebrows from rising with awe every 5 seconds. Such a talented woman, if she doesn’t get the Oscar for best leading actress, the awards would be a sham…and Julia Roberts. They acted so well together, I am running out of words to praise them with. Their performances made this movie and, without the chemistry, it would have been very dry. I hope these two actresses get the recognition they deserve because they made a broadway play, that shouldn’t have been turned into film, into something decent.
Verdict: I’m going to give two scores: 10 of 10 kicks because of the compelling acting 6 of 10 kicks for the movie as a whole
Let me know what you guys think? 🙂