August: Osage County (2013)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBB

USA, 2013.  , , , .  Screenplay by , based on his play.  Cinematography by .  Produced by , , , .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by

The hit Broadway play by Tracy Letts makes its way to the big screen with fully satisfying results.  Meryl Streep lords over the roost of an eccentric (to say the least) Oklahoma family thrown into disarray when her husband (Sam Shepard) walks out of the house and vanishes without a trace.  Almost immediately she is surrounded by family from near and far, with her sister (, outstanding) and three daughters (Julia Roberts, Juliette Lewis, ) showing up to offer support.

When things take an even darker turn, the combination of these characters plus their men (, Chris Cooper, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ewan McGregor) and Roberts’ daughter (Abigail Breslin) make for a tinderbox of combinations and conflicts.  Streep’s Violet is a genuine piece of work, a foul-mouthed, ornery and explosive woman whose addiction to pills combined with her suffering cancer of the mouth (and how unsubtle is that poetic justice) are only veiled excuses for the venom she spews at anyone who comes near her.

When the film works best is when it fully accepts that it is a filmed play and doesn’t mind you knowing it:  exchanges at the dinner table, particularly between Streep and a grounded, awe-inspiring Roberts, rivet you to your seat with dialogue that rings in your ears for miles afterwards (“Eat your fish, bitch!”)  Flourishes that look to add cinematic expansiveness to a stage bound piece (a run through a hay field, a trip to the doctor) feel like unnecessary additions to what is a perfectly tight collection of character encounters.  Its flaws are minor, though, so watch it and wonder at the powerhouse of talent being combined here.

Academy Award Nominations:  Best Actress (Meryl Streep); Best Supporting Actress (Julia Roberts)

Golden Globe Award Nominations:  Best Actress-Drama (Meryl Streep); Best Supporting Actress (Julia Roberts)

Screen Actors Guild Award NominationsOutstanding Motion Picture Cast; Best Female Actor (Meryl Streep); Best Supporting Female (Julia Roberts)

Toronto International Film Festival:   2013


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