With award season looming, all of the studios at throwing their collective spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks for 2013. Relying heavily on the all-star cast, August: Osage County is an adapted play that makes a surprisingly good movie. Starring on Broadway and playing across the country, the play had great success in the theater. This isn’t always a guarantee of a good movie. Carnage was a great play but a lumbering beast of a movie.
August: Osage County is helped by the fact that original playright Tracy Letts, a Pulitzer Prize winner, was the one to take a stab at the Hollywood screenplay and she made something of real value. The film is well timed, subtle, and has a great cast. Juila Roberts and Meryl Streep give command performances, which is why they’re up for SAG nominations. Streep plays Violet Weston, the head of the Weston clan of girls. Her cancer and pain pill addiction serve as one of the focuses of the story that revolves around the suicide of Violet’s husband, Beverly (Sam Shepard). Roberts plays the oldest and “most treasured” daughter, Barbara. The toughness found in the mother has passed to her daughter, which is the cause of Barbara’s imminent divorce. All of the rest of the family comes together to bury Beverly and to expose the many and varied slights, fights and injuries the family has both kept secret and openly flaunted over the years.
We have seen the plot before; where families gather to snipe and slash at each other, but the subtle and nuanced performances of both Streep and Roberts makes this iteration a jewel. None of the supporting cast slouches either. With Benedict Cumberbatch, Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor, Margo Martindale, Dermot Mulroney, Julianne Nicholson, Juliette Lewis, Abigail Brenslin and newcomer Misty Upham as the Native American Maid roped into the family’s troubles, you have a cast to die for. They all play their part in creating on screen a family you can believe.
The character’s emotions stretch and break. The reasoning and the specifics of why are not really important. More relevant is that you feel like you’re at the dinner table with them. Some family member has an issue you can relate to: requited love, secret dalliances, moving away from home, divorce, choosing the wrong partner, an ungovernable teenager, etc. etc. There are moments to touch everyone’s lives. All are played out with deep emotion. You should take your artist and intellectual friend to see this one. They will appreciate the fine acting, the slow pace and the glimpse into character that the actors offer.
7 gutted family dinners out of 10