Tuesday, February 4, 2014

August: Osage County

Starring: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Juliette Lewis, Ewan MacGregor, if you can guess them they're in it
Director: John Wells
Running Time: 2 hours, 1 minute

Rating: R

The incomparable Meryl Streep could play a corpse and excel at it. I'm not sure how this woman keeps pulling the best performance of her career off year after year, but she never fails. Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Tracy Letts, "August: Osage County" is full of mentally and emotionally unstable characters, specifically females, and it's pretty difficult to watch the manipulation, disrespect and chaos. As Violet Weston, Streep stars as the matriarch of a dysfunctional Oklahoma family who reunites after their father has gone missing. Performances from just about everyone in Hollywood shine, with Streep, Julia Roberts and Juliette Lewis taking the spotlight.

This film is being billed as a comedy, and though there are bits of comedic relief, there's really nothing funny about it. It tells the heart-breaking story of a pill-popping mother and the effect she has had on her adult daughters. This film is saturated with big names, but it definitely gives the female characters more to work with. The men don't shine as brightly, but they aren't given the crazy dialogue and scenes. A failing marriage creates tension between Barbara, her husband and their daughter Jean (Roberts, Ewan MacGregor and Abigail Breslin, respectively). It's pretty scary when Violet talks about how heartless her mother was, and then we see her behave the same way to her daughters, and then we see Barbara becoming the same way with her daughter, and we know it will ultimately affect Jean as a mother. It's a tragic circle.

Juliette Lewis is Karen, the youngest and most innocent daughter. We admire her positive attitude in such a broken household, but her head is really in the clouds. Dermot Mulroney plays her sneaky, untrustworthy fiance (reunititng with his "My Best Friend's Wedding" costar Roberts!) This is the best I've seen Lewis and Roberts in years. The other Weston daughter, Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) seems to live a life of normalcy, but we are proven oh so wrong towards the end of the film. The fabulous Benedict Cumberbatch makes a brief appearance and impression on us, without enough screen time to really make a lasting impact. Chris Cooper is the only somewhat stable character in the film, but according to Violet, it's because "he smokes a lot of grass."

Meryl's drug-fueled scenes are haunting. I will think of them from now on when I hear "Lay Down Sally". Her appearance will shock you - a large wig covering up her thinning gray roots, due to chemotherapy from mouth cancer. The "eat the f****** fish scene" will stick with you too.

I'm not sure how well this translates to the screen since I haven't seen the play, but you can definitely tell it was adapted from the stage, with all of the dialogue and very few setting/scene changes. It's not a contender for Best Picture, but if Meryl doesn't get Best Actress it's because she has too many already. It might be best to let Cate have it this time, for playing another substance abusing nut job (see my review of "Blue Jasmine"). See this, then go home and hug your family, or if your family is bonkers too, relish in the fact that you're not alone.


No comments:

Post a Comment