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'August: Osage County' review: Difficult, dysfunctional, & surprisingly amazing

Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep attend the premiere of "August: Osage County."
Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep attend the premiere of "August: Osage County."
Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

August: Osage County (movie)

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The perfect movie for singles looking for an anti-love film on Valentine’s Day weekend, “August: Osage County” is about some awful people that balance between hating each other and just accepting that they’re all family.

Violet (Meryl Streep) and Beverly Weston (Sam Shepard) have been married for over four decades, but both have relied on substances to go on; Violet has her pills and Beverly drinks heavily. Beverly hires a Native American woman, Johnna (Misty Upham), to help them at home but he then disappears. Violet’s sister, Mattie Fae (Margo Martindale), and brother-in-law, Charlie (Chris Cooper), show up to help calm Violet while awaiting the arrival of Violet’s three daughters, Barbara (Julia Roberts), Ivy (Julianne Nicholson), and Karen (Juliette Lewis). Faced with the death of the patriarch, the whole family comes together but ends up revealing secrets and constantly fighting.

The entire family has problems and does their best to escape their lives. Calling them dysfunctional puts it mildly. From alcohol to pot to affairs, no one is innocent. Barbara and her husband (Ewan MaGregor) are separated and constantly disagree about their daughter’s (Abigail Breslin) well-being. Karen has no confidence and relies on her boyfriend (Dermot Mulroney) for attention but ignores his faults. Ivy is so beaten down by her mother that she keeps all of her most private information secret from everyone but cousin Little Charles (Benedict Cumberbatch). Violet looms over everyone like a storm cloud ready to strike any of them down.

Based on the play by Tracy Letts, “August: Osage County” relies on its extremely talented cast. Everyone involved provides terrific performances, but Julia Roberts surprisingly shines in this much darker role than her norm. The family is brutal and crazy, and each actor pulls his/her weight. Your heart breaks for the more fragile characters, Charlie, Little Charles, and Ivy.

Likely to be a classic for its performances much like fellow play adaption “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” “August: Osage County” has such a strong team to make it amazing; director John Wells’ sophomore film should earn him plenty of attention while screenwriter Tracy Letts, too, will hopefully continue working in film after the recent success of his adaptations of his own plays “Killer Joe” and “August: Osage County.” Everyone involved is overshadowed by other more likely winners, but this team is deserving of all of its Academy Award and other award nominations.

Rating for “August: Osage County:” A

For more information on this film or to view its trailer, click here.

“August: Osage County” continues to linger in theatres in Columbus, including at Rave Polaris and AMC Dublin, Grove City, Lennox and Easton. For showtimes, click here.