Directed By: John Wells
Written By: Tracy Letts
Cast: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Margo Martindale, Sam Shepard, Chris Cooper, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ewan McGregor, Juliette Lewis, Abagail Breslin, Dermont Mulroney, Julianne Nicholson, Misty Upham, Newell Alexander
Synopsis: The Weston family overcomes certain differences when their alcoholic patriarch goes missing.
Why It Could Win: The source material alone is enough to put it in the winner’s circle. It is based on the best American play since Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, winning both the Tony and Pulitzer when it was on Broadway. It’s a bruising play, with a lot of meat for the actors to chew on and Tracy Letts is a gifted wordsmith, so the screenplay should be great. Speaking of actors, this movie has an eclectic mix of award winners and character actors, which is great given the ensemble nature of the piece. They are lead of course by Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts as Violet and Beverly Weston. Those parts are very baity and as long as they don’t stumble, both women should easily find themselves in contention. There’s also really well loved character actors in this film and given the career heat, you could see McGregor, Martindale or Cumberbatch with a nomination. This will also be one of the few films to center around strong women, and that’ll help differentiate it from the rest of the pack. Also, Harvey Weinstein.
Why It Could Fail: High expectations. You remember what I said about best American play? If the execution isn’t there for this film will be easy to write off. Meryl Streep Fatigue is also a factor. I can’t help but think of all of the women of a certain age that I’d have thought of in this role before even getting around to Meryl Streep. On the latest podcast, I mentioned this was the performance I was most looking forward to but not because I think she’ll knock it out of the park, but because I’m on pins and needles hoping she does. Harvey is going to tread carefully with how he campaigns her to win that fourth Oscar, especially given that there will be some overdue contenders in the field. Category confusion is what could end up hurting the film the most. There are so many characters and good actors in this movie, who will go where? Will they split? Roberts’ character is nothing less than a lead but if they push her supporting it could sabotage the chances of Martindale or Lewis. Also, I feel that with such bruising material, they surely did go safe in many key areas, especially director. There also is nothing awe inspiring about that filmography of John Wells, no matter how big a fan of ER I am. How will he handle the rapid fire dialogue? Can he expand the world without going too far? And finally, is the Academy going to tire of Harvey? He’s got 5 films to promote this year that could be in the Oscar race. That’s a lot of Weinstein, could this get hurt by backlash? August has an established brand and is arguably the crown jewel of his slate. We saw this year with Lincoln, it’s not always good to be a frontrunner in November.
Lead Actress: Streep, Roberts (if they don’t commit category fraud)
Supporting Actor: McGregor, Cumberbatch
Supporting Actress: Roberts (if they commit category fraud), Martindale, Lewis