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August: Osage County: Do all women eventually turn into their mothers?

August: Osage County


Written by Markus Robinson, Edited by Nicole I. Ashland

Misery loves family.
Image from The Weinstein Company

Markus Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Rated R for language including sexual references, and for drug material

Now playing at Century 20 Oakridge Mall in San Jose, California:

After having to endure “Bug” and “Killer Joe”, we finally we get a film adaptation of the only Tracy Letts play that anybody wanted to see. Letts adapts his own Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning tragic comedy of arguments (using his original unfortunate title and all) “August: Osage County”, for the big screen. It centers around a family who reunites after the patriarch goes missing. Now, his three grown daughters, one who’s in a broken marriage (Julia Roberts) one who’s an unashamed floozy (Juliette Lewis) and one who’s pretty much only known as the ignored daughter (Julianne Nicholson) as well as their mother (Meryl Streep) who is a drug addicted, spitefully hilarious, sharp tongued woman who, in a cruel twist of fate, has mouth cancer, and a slew of other characters who all do their parts to add fuel to the fire, are now forced to spend an indeterminate amount of time together until all is resolved. For two hours we watch as this impromptu reunion breeds an amalgamation of colorful conversations/arguments regarding infidelity, incest, drug abuse and pretty much everything that isn’t appropriate dinner table conversation. And shockingly, none of it seems forced or convoluted.

So, last week I made the proclamation that Leonardo DiCaprio will win the Oscar for his performance in “The Wolf of Wall Street” simply on the platform that he was cranked up to 11 the entire time. And if it wasn’t for Cate Blanchett, the same would go for Meryl Streep in “August: Osage County”, as she is absolutely unleashed here, steam rolling (for better, not worse) the rest of this brilliant cast. As for Julia Roberts, this may be the best performance of her career, but that’s not really saying much.

It’s not just the brash and relentlessly demonstrative dialogue and the grade A performances which add to the film’s effectiveness, it’s also Letts’ story and ability to not just put a bunch of combative people in a small space and watch the dysfunction ensue, but also interweave these most interestingly layered characters into the most interesting and scathing plotlines.

Side Note: With this kind of source material and this caliber of actors reciting Pulitzer Prize winning dialogue, by no fault of his own, John Wells, the director, is really rendered useless here. In the case of “August: Osage County” (to throw in a sports analogy) John Wells comes off as a new coach that has inherited a championship team.

Final Thought: While there are some lulls in this film which arise as we await the next shocking revelation, and of course with this dialogue comes the understanding that nobody really talks like this, the only thing forgettable about “August: Osage County” was the performance of Benedict Cumberbatch (as Little (cousin) Charles) who swings in and out of his natural accent and is barely given anything to do. Overall, I had a good time with this; watching this family crumble in front of my eyes. There are mounds of excellent sequences which kept me wanting more. And Meryl is still da man. What else can I say?

Follow me on Twitter @moviesmarkus

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