August: Osage County – Movie Review
By Anne Brodie Dec 24, 2013, 15:24 GMT
Based on the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award®-winning play by Tracy Letts, "August: Osage County" tells the dark, hilarious and deeply touching story of the strong-willed women of the Weston family, whose lives have diverged until a family crisis brings them back to the Midwest house they grew up in, and to the dysfunctional woman who raised them. Letts’ play made its Broadway debut in December 2007 after premiering at ...more
If you’re looking for an experience without special effects or space creatures, moored right here on earth but inflammatory, nerve rattling and unrelentingly vigorous, this will do.
Julia Roberts throws Meryl Streep on the ground in a good old fashioned fistfight, Benedict Cumberbatch is so painfully shy as to be stripped of any remnant of manhood and perennial good guy Dermott Mulroney is a predator and child molester. And it all unfolds mostly around the dinner table.
Wells does take the long running hit Broadway play out of the confines of the home and into the roads, cornfields and backyards of rural Oklahoma, a bigger coliseum for some deadly serious family brawling. They’ve gathered on the occasion of the suicide of the family patriarch (Sam Shepard). It’s a strained situation heightened by constant and escalating clashes.
Sounds grim but August: Osage County is also deeply entertaining, a guilty pleasure like sitting on a park bench watching people trip on a crack in the cement. The pill popping matriarch Violet (Meryl Streep) is in the final stages of cancer and her three daughters (Julia Roberts, Julianne Nicholson, Juliette Lewis) who can barely tolerate their mother, have returned home for the funeral. Violet’s drug use is a 24/7 event and her hysterical rants are loud and bitter, meant to wound.
She spits out family secrets–“He was a drunk!”, “You were my favorite”, and blames the drugs for her erratic behavior in rare moments of lucidity. Her violent outbursts are vicious; she tears apart her daughters with spite and hatred. Streep is dead on in the role. There’s no pussy footing around, she is out there and she’s out of control.
Streep is a bit much at times, bringing to mind Bette Davis did in her final films, but she has created an fully formed woman, flaws and all, no apology required, like it or not.
Roberts who plays milquetoasts most of the time gets her moment as Barb, the tough, smart eldest daughter who is every bit as volatile as her mother. Barb’s husband (Ewan McGregor) is leaving her because she’s cold and hard. Her daughter (Abigail Breslin) steers clear.
Barb is devoted to her sisters and is ready to fight for them. Roberts is terrific in the role, and for once leaves herself alone. The cute foibles are absent, at last, replaced by real, recognizable grown up colors. She’s a woman with ideas and flaws and a hard shell.
The whole family is interesting; they are characters in the old fashioned sense, with lots of passion and fight and survival skills. The language is colorful and what they say, if it weren’t so brutal and bare knuckles, could be considered poetic. That’s part of the fun of the film. These mannered southern ladies are really just itching for confrontation. Shame it’s at a funeral dinner.
Much is packed into two hours in Osage County, flaring tempers, flying pottery, accusations and afflictions, betrayals, forbidden love, secrets and a certain safe deposit box. There’s the end of love and the possibility of love. It’s fast, funny and deadly serious. It’s a hell of a ride led by Streep and Roberts, strong southern women who won’t take any guff, who’d sooner throw you to the ground than listen to you any longer.
35mm drama Written by Tracy Letts Directed by John Wells Opens: Dec 25 Runtime: 130 minutes MPAA: Rated R for language including sexual references, and for drug material Country: USA Language: English