BEVERLY Weston (Sam Shepard) hires a Native American woman called Johnna (Misty Upham) as a live-in carer and cook for his pillpopping, terminally ill wife, Violet (Meryl Streep).

Soon after, Beverly vanishes from his rural Oklahoma homestead and his lifeless body is recovered five days later in a nearby lake. Violet telephones her three daughters for support and they dutifully, if reluctantly, rally to her desperate cause.

Youngest child Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) lives nearby while oldest child Barbara (Julia Roberts) arrives from out of town with her estranged husband Bill (Ewan McGregor) and their disgruntled 14-year-old daughter, Jean (Abigail Breslin).

Flighty middle child Karen (Juliette Lewis) is last to materialise, waltzing into town with her new beau, sleazy Florida businessman Steve Heidebrecht (Dermot Mulroney).

The family crowds around the dinner table where drug-addled Violet insists on serving up bile-slathered insults alongside Johnna's lovingly prepared meal.

Everybody hurts in August: Osage County, adapted for the screen by Tracy Letts from his 2008 Pulitzer Prize-winning stage play.

Set largely within the claustrophobic Weston house on a sweltering summer's afternoon, John Wells’ film cannot escape its theatrical origins.

Camerawork is largely static, relying on Letts’s dialogue to set the brisk tempo. Wells harnesses tour-de-force performances. Streep is in blistering form, baiting her eldest daughter with each swingeing sideswipe: “If you'd had more than one child, you’d know a parent always has favourites.”

Fellow Oscar nominee Roberts is equally impressive, finally losing her cool in a hysterical scene with a plate of fish.