This family drama is a grueling, gloppy, false film. A poet father (Sam Shepard) goes missing (and then dies) and the family is summoned to bury him. They proceed to vomit all over each other as the matriarch (Meryl Streep) goads and undermines the lot of them.
It is based in Oklahoma, which elicits exaggerated heartland/Southern accents and theatrical, hokey back-and-forth (Julia Roberts’ “get tough” bit with her mother, Streep, is laughably unconvincing). There are confrontations and serial reveals of family secrets, followed by more wailing and teeth-gnashing, and that’s about the whole of it.
The film is adapted from a stage play, which encourages overacting. Streep and Roberts are particularly culpable, the former not so much in technique but in volume and size. She positively leers at her stupid family, and horns near come out of her head. Naturally, the Academy nominated them both for Oscars, but nobody in their right mind would spend another minute with these women after the mildest of their taunts or insults. But there this family of dolts sits, taking it just like the audience.
There’s not a genuine moment in this monstrosity.