Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on April 2014

As dysfunctional family reunion films go, there’s not a lot new here. Any detectable comedy is dark as the night, and exists only to leaven the even darker drama. So not a lot of chuckles, but you see a movie like this (and you should) for the acting and the fiery, literate dialogue. The reason the far-flung Weston family is gathering at the big, shabby Oklahoma farmhouse is the suicide of the patriarch, who offed himself because dealing with his increasingly shrewish, cancer-stricken wife was getting in the way of his drinking. In addition to Meryl Streep dining delightfully on the scenery as one of the least likable screen characters in cinema history, and Julia Roberts as her cut-the-crap eldest daughter (both Oscar-nominated), there’s Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Juliette Lewis, Julianne Nicholson, Margo Martindale, Abigail Breslin, Dermot Mulroney, Sam Shepard and Benedict Cumberbatch. Each blends with the ensemble until his or her democratically allotted Big Scene. It’s a film of big gestures and little nuance. Insults are hurled, plates smashed, faces slapped and secrets revealed. Adultery, divorce, incest and X-treme one-upmanship. Adapted by Tracy Letts from her own Pulitzer Prize-winning stage play, and directed by John Wells (The Company Men). Japanese title: Hachigatsu no Kazoku-tachi. (120 min)