Hairdresser and single mum Lee (Streep), struggling with rebellious teenager Hank (DiCaprio), gets an invitation to visit - after some 20 years - from her estranged sister Bessie (Keaton). On arrival in Florida, Lee finds that ditzy Dr Wally (De Niro) has not only diagnosed Bessie as having leukaemia, but her sister is also facing decisions about the care of their stroke-ridden father Marvin (Cronyn) and elderly aunt Ruth (Verdon), with whom Bessie shares her home. The movie's subject is how need and the imminence of death can be catalysts for growth, closer family feeling and love. First-time director Zaks has fashioned a restrained weepie, adapted by Scott McPherson from his own stage play, which doesn't so much open up the text as harness it to strong ensemble performances, with the actors investing power in restricted, even staple, roles: Streep gives her most credible blue-collar performance to date; Keaton sidesteps saintliness to mix vulnerability and small heroics. In concert with this, the film is shot with discreet professionalism, while Rachel Portman confirms her mastery of mildly melodramatic mood music.
Cast and crew
Robert De Niro