Ever get anxious about family reunions? You definitely would if you were Meryl Streep’s daughter in “August: Osage County.” She is matriarch Violet who is battling mouth cancer and a pain pill addict, eating them the same way others would eat a Tic Tac. Her husband, Beverly (Sam Shepard), an alcoholic, goes missing which causes Violet’s daughters to return home to help.
Turns out that Beverly is known for taking off and Violet is known for her dramatics. The reunion of the family is like a country version of Jerry Springer complete with hair pulling, uncovered secrets and F-bombs galore.
Barbara (Julia Roberts) and her estranged husband (Ewan McGregor) make the trip to Oklahoma with their teenage daughter Jean (Abigail Breslin). The dynamic between Violet and Barbara is fierce, intense, and volatile, and even that might be an understatement. Their fights, both verbal and physical, are the best parts of the movie. They hold nothing back and one particular argument over fried fish is the best of the film.
Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) is the daughter who stayed close to home. Quiet and passive and in love with her cousin Little Charles (Benedict Cumberbatch). She clearly has problems of her own. And then there is annoyingly clueless sister Karen (Juliette Lewis) who brings home her latest (pervy) flavor of the month (Dermot Mulroney).
It’s a dysfunctional family topped off by Violet’s sister Mattie Fae (Margo Martindale) and her husband Charlie (Chris Cooper) who come together to be family but understanding they hate what that means. The movie is based on a play with some incredible acting and writing. However, some of the lengthier monologues don’t translate well to the big screen as they seem long and cumbersome. Too theatrical for the big screen. Too verbose for a movie audience. Imagining these particular scenes being played out on stage makes more sense.
Final words: Wordy and depressing, but dynamic in the dramatic. Watch for Roberts and Streep come awards time, per the usual.