"August: Osage County" - A dysfunctional family tries to survive

We've had our share of dysfunctional family reunions on both stage and screen over the years, but I can't recall one that reaches the depths of despair with such rage as in "August: Osage Country". Tracey Letts has adapted his Pulitzer Prize-winning play to the screen with a cast of A-list actors including Sam Shepard, Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis, Julianne Nicholson Margo Martindale and Dermot Mulroney.

Julia Roberts & Meryl Streep try to understand each other

Julia Roberts & Meryl Streep try to understand each other

The setting is the family homestead on the wind-swept plains of Oklahoma. It's hot and uncomfortable as the family gathers for a funeral. The matriarch, played by Ms Streep, is a foul-mouthed, chain-smoking, prescription drug addict, suffering with mouth cancer who takes the occasion to vent her fears and frustrations that have built up over the years. At the dinner table she viciously attacks every member of the family uttering the line, "I'm just truth talking" and reminds the family, "Nothing skips by me." Most of the family just stomps out of the house when they can't take it anymore. Except for her eldest daughter, played by Julia Roberts, who won't give in and challenges her mother both mentally and physically. It's one of her best performances in years. Streep is, as always, just brilliant. Actually, so is the entire cast.

This is a dark film. Sure, there are comical moments, but for the most part you'll be watching flawed and disturbed people, trying to sort out their lives with a look to the future.. It isn't a particularly enjoyable movie to watch. Yet, there are some memorable moments such as the "dinner scene" and the "mother-daughter" physical confrontation."

One other aspect of Tracy Letts work that has been talked and written about since the first screening of his film, is the constant comparison of the screenplay to the stage play which Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre first presented in 2007 followed by a successful Broadway run. I choose not to get into that, as this is a review of the movie, period. I will say, if you've seen the play, you may be disappointed in the film. Taking the camera out of the house, did nothing to make it more interesting or add to our understanding of these sad people. But that's for you to determine. Should you decide to see "August: Osage County" you're in for a couple of serious hours at the movies.

Time: 120 minutes

Rating "R" for language including sexual material and for drug material

Filed under: Movie Reviews

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