Strong Acting Can't Save Soap Opera Hysterics of August: Osage County
- Friday, January 10, 2014
Release Date: December 27, 2013 (limited); January 10, 2014 (wide)
Rating: R (language, including sexual references, and for drug material)
Run Time: 121 min.
Director: John Wells
Cast: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Sam Shepard, Dermot Mulroney, Julianne Nicholson, Juliette Lewis, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Margo Martindale, Misty Upham
While it probably worked marvelously in its intended three-act structure and has numerous Tony Awards to prove it, August: Osage County is the sort of film that actors love but audiences will feel downright divided about.
For the A-list talent—Meryl Streep (Hope Springs), Julia Roberts (Eat Pray Love), Chris Cooper (The Town), Dermot Mulroney (Jobs), Ewan McGregor (Salmon Fishing in the Yemen) and more—a big-screen adaptation of such celebrated material is probably satisfying. Not only do they have the rare opportunity to flex those dramatic acting muscles in a story that feels like it’s set in a pressure cooker (hello, Oscar nominations), but they get to deliver some grandiose, Pulitzer-winning dialogue to boot.
For average moviegoers, however, watching these familiar faces shout and scream and degrade each other at dinner for two hours probably isn’t most people’s idea of a good time. Sure, there’s some small resonance in the reminder that nobody's family is perfect, but paying to watch one fully implode is another matter entirely. It's exhausting.
In the manner of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and A Streetcar Named Desire, August: Osage County revels in confrontations of epic proportions. Beginning with a folksy T.S. Eliot quote about life being long (and boy, do you feel that as the movie drags on), we get a quick glimpse of the dusty Oklahoma backdrop before retreating inside the cramped quarters the Weston family calls home. Lest anyone forget the story's theatrical roots, the filmmakers make sure you feel the claustrophobia, especially when the whole Weston family makes its way back to the Sooner State.
After a few heated exchanges between the family patriarch Beverly (Sam Shepard, Mud) and his acid-tongued, pill-popping wife with mouth cancer, Violet (Streep), Beverly announces he's heading out for a bit. But when he doesn't come back (and really, who could blame him for leaving), Violet’s three daughters Barbara (Roberts, appropriately de-glammed and a total standout), Ivy (television actress Julianne Nicholson) and Karen (Juliette Lewis, Due Date) inevitably make their way to Oklahoma to help track him down.
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