August: Osage County (2013)

JOHN WELLS

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 .  Academy Awards 2013.  Golden Globe Awards 2013.  Toronto International Film Festival 2013.  

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, ) 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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s