I don’t get it.
I mean I seriously don’t get it.
I saw this play on Broadway, interested mostly because it came out of Steppenwolf, which meant Meisner actors. I was disappointed then. And irritated. Very irritated.
Nothing much has changed, except that the writing in the movie is much worse. (I watched because I vote for the SAG awards and it was free.)
I know, the play won a Pulitzer. But I’m damned if anyone can tell me why. It’s a Southern melodrama, slightly modernized, but utilizing so many cliches I can’t see the point of even watching. I find the incest cliche/revelation so boring and insulting. I mean, Lone Star did it so much better, and in that movie, which I loved, I cared about the characters and what they were going to do. In this one, I was like, bummer for them. Yawn.
So, I don’t like the writing. Meaning that I don’t like the structure, and while I LOVE family as subject, I expect a contemporary writer to give me something new. Tracy Letts doesn’t. But at least in the play there was some pathos, something at stake for the characters, some hope of reconciliation, some hope the mother might not be quite as terrible as she seems. In the movie, there are almost no stakes at all. Which means, quite literally, snooze. My partner and I both fell asleep and had to keep waking each other up. And we were both super curious about Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts working together, and about Benedict Cumberbatch and Chris Cooper (we’re in love with both of them). Still, zzzzzzzzzzzz.
Mind you, these are good and great actors, and no one did a bad job. Julia Roberts did okay, and I’ve been holding out hope that as she gets older and holds out for more substantive roles (which she seems to be doing), she’ll rediscover her early promise–because she had mad chops as well as charisma in Mystic Pizza. Of course, the big dinner scene was dominated by Meryl doing her character actor thing, and no one does it better (except perhaps Chris Cooper, who held his own better than anyone else with very few lines). Of course, Meryl hit every character note, and even made Violet, who is crazy mean, charming at times, which was a nice touch. I’m still not a huge Meryl fan, because she doesn’t make me care and doesn’t seem to have chemistry with most of her colleagues, but she shone in her dinner monologue with interruptions. She’s a solo performer in ensemble, so it was a great scene for her. One could even hope that Julia would take note that it’s okay to be both charming and miserable at the same time. That’s the problem with the acting as well as the writing in the movie–these people are living at rock bottom, they’ve already lost and they know it, and their fighting seems a feature of their lives rather than an exception. It’s like, whatever is the worst behavior, they’ll do it. (There is one wonderful surprise in the movie with a shovel, but I won’t ruin it for you.)
Anyhow, in a season of some very good movies indeed, I’d give this one a pass. Glad I saw it for free! (Instead, see American Hustle, arguably David O. Russell’s best…or Philomena, or Enough Said.)
Happy New Year!