Based on a stage play, it follows a period in the lives of the Weston family, who put the deranged in disfunctional. The supposed head of the family is alcoholic Beverly Weston (Sam Shepherd). We say supposed because his authority is somewhat doubtful once we meet Violet Weston (Meryl Streep), a prescription drug addicted matriarchal monster and possessor of an acid tongue that shrivels grown men. No doubt worn down by said tongue, Sam shortly disappears, presumed drowned. And so the rest of the Weston clan return to the family home for his funeral.
Over the next couple of days we meet feisty daughter Barbara (Julia Roberts, wonderfully grey-haired and potty-mouthed), who is separating from husband Bill (Ewan McGregor) and argues ferociously with mother Violet about anything and everything. Dippy daughter Karen (Juliette Lewis) arrives, trailing her latest flashy, sports car driving new boyfriend. Completing the offspring is sensible daughter Ivy (Julianne Nicholson), who harbours a secret passion for her hapless cousin Charles Aiken (Benedict Cumberbatch, for once putting a tight lid on his charisma). Bringing up the rear of this female overload is Aunt Mattie (Margo Martindale), a venomous partner-in-crime to her sister Violet.
With the house bursting at the seams, emotions running high and Violet off her head, tensions escalate to boiling point. Allegiances are made and lost, family skeletons tumble out of closets and we wonder how on earth no-one has actually punched anyone. Then they do.
The stage play roots are very evident. Bordering on the melodramatic, it’s undoubtedly an act-oors film. If you want naturalism, this isn’t for you. But if you’re happy to watch a dribblingly delicious cast get their teeth stuck into something juicy, fill your boots. Just don’t have nightmares about mama Violet.
UK release 24 January