August: Osage County (2013)

It’s only natural to get upset at members of your family. You can’t live with them. You can’t live without them. That’s usually the case and sometimes, arguments may arise. It’s not entirely uncommon to yell at family members, but these verbal fights don’t often get out of hand. Well, I’ve just witnessed some verbal matches that crossed the line and then some and it wasn’t a pretty sight. Just be thankful for family and try to avoid fights as much as possible. That’s my two cents for the day!

Barbara manages a smile, before she heads back  home.
Barbara manages a smile, before she heads back home.

The Weston family is anything but average. Violet (Meryl Streep), the drug-addicted matriarch of the family, is a vile woman, riddled with cancer. Her husband, Beverly (Sam Shepard), is a man of few words and often takes off unexpectedly. When one day Beverley doesn’t return home, Violet immediately assumes the worse and calls upon the aid of her three, very different daughters. Her caretaker and most present daughter, Ivy (Julianne Nicholson), is the first to go back home and yet again, care for her mother. Up next, is Barbara (Julia Roberts), the strongest of the daughters and also the most resilient. Rounding out the daughters is Karen (Juliette Lewis), the ditzy one. When all three girls are back under the same roof, searching for their father, things take a turn for the worst.

When the Weston women hear that their father has drowned himself, the mood changes and the love in the air soon fades away. Mattie Fae (Margot Martindale), Violet’s sister, and her husband Charles (Chris Cooper) arrive shortly to lend a hand, but it’s apparent that Violet’s drug addiction has taken her almost beyond saving. Barbara’s husband Bill (Ewan McGregor) and their daughter Jean (Abigail Breslin), along with Karen’s fiance Steve (Dermot Mulroney), are all present for the funeral and get a great look into the Weston family dynamic over an atrocious dinner. There’s a lot of pent-up anger between all the Weston women and the claws come out when each person’s flaws are revealed. Each life is examined and as the truth unravels itself, the dark side of this family is brought into the light.

The Weston women head to Beverly's funeral.
The Weston women head to Beverly’s funeral.

Usually, family dinners are only bad when your little secrets or insecurities come out. However, I don’t think people go out of their way to shame their family at dinner, which makes August: Osage County such a fun and twisted film! We’ve all had our fair share of embarrassing dinners, but nothing can compare to the long and painful dinner sequence within this play turned film. The exploration and depth of these characters is marvelous and the film is a great look into a family with some real troubles. You may think you have it bad, but be grateful that you don’t have it as bad as the Weston family.

From the opening scene, Meryl Streep reaffirms why she is such an outstanding actress. Sporting a shaved head and spouting out obscenities, she sets the tone for the rest of the film. You can tell that there is a sweet woman beneath her exterior shell, but her cancer and outlook on life has poisoned her too severely. What we get from her, is an old lady who has bottled every emotion in for the entirety of her life. It was only  a matter of time before everything came bursting out. Margo Martindale also shares some similar traits as the sister to Streep. The two share a very special bond that mainly involves yelling at other people. The two work very well together and are at times some of the most vicious women you’ll ever see. The power and presence in the family is clear and it’s no wonder why the daughters resent their family.

Violet is about to rip into everyone at dinner.
Violet is about to rip into everyone at dinner.

Julia Roberts is the only one giving Streep a run for her money here, but that’s not to say that Nicholson doesn’t also do a spectacular job too. Roberts brings the strong-willed and independent daughter alive when she feels the need to set things straight in her messed up family. For too long, she’d been the subject of scrutiny and abuse from her mother, and when she eventually does stand up for herself and her sisters, we see a whole new side to Roberts and it’s quite the spectacle. Nicholson plays the polar opposite of Roberts, as her character is shy and doesn’t find much confidence in herself, mainly because Violet is always putting her down. When she does find happiness, Nicholson conveys it in such a beautiful way that you can’t help but be happy for her character, no matter what the circumstances. Both Roberts and Nicholson have great chemistry with one another and I only wish that I could say the same for Lewis.

In a film filled with some heavy hitters, it’s pretty amazing that Chris Cooper and Ewan McGregor manage to find themselves stealing scenes as well. They’re both phenomenal actors and they both bring something new to the table as well. Cooper is always under fire from Martindale and when she insults their son Charles (Benedict Cumberbatch), Cooper lets loose and delivers one of the film’s best monologues. McGregor offers us a man struggling with his marriage and struggling to love Roberts, especially when he sees all of what her family is capable of. Even Cumberbatch finds time to standout in this film, with one of his most reclusive roles that even allows him to serenade the audience with a song. There’s also some odd tension between Breslin and Mulroney’s characters that makes this film all the more enticing.

Amid all the chaos, Charles and Ivy find time to smile.
Amid all the chaos, Charles and Ivy find time to smile.

While this film may be brilliantly directed by John WellsTracy Letts is the one behind the masterful screenplay. What’s even better, is the fact that Letts adapted the screenplay from his Pulitzer Prize winning stage-play of the same name. Taking a four-hour play and condensing it into a two-hour film is an accomplishment all in its own and the ability to maintain the sharp dialog and character study is even more commendable. There are so many shocking scenes in this film that keep your interest and provide you with greater insight into this disturbing family. Due to the dialogue and stellar acting (for the most part), this film flies by in no time and you’re left craving for more. It’s an odd sensation to be yearning to see more yelling from this dysfunctional family, but I also think it’s a natural reaction because this film works on almost every level. I can only imagine how much fun the stage-play is to watch, which speaks to how great this adaptation is.

For the most part, August: Osage County is an amazing film. That being said, I felt like there could have been more background information behind a few of the minor characters and I thought that Juliette Lewis wasn’t very believable. Aside from those minor complaints, I was very satisfied with how this film turned out and there’s no doubt that this film has one of, if not, the best ensemble casts of the year. I had such a blast with this film and I didn’t want it to end. My biggest takeaway from this film was to never hold on to grudges and never, ever cross Meryl Streep or Julia Roberts. They will verbally destroy you and leave you half of the man or woman you were. Oh, and be thankful for your family too!

August: Osage County Trailer
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Hd_uO72h1s

4.5 STARS!!!

4.5 / 5 stars     

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