The Oklahoma plains are the first thing to appear on screen. The wide establishing shots indefinitely make you feel like you’re there: in the middle of nowhere. It’s hot (you’ll hear about it quite a lot throughout and maybe even feel the heat yourself from the animosity and contemptuous feelings in the family). You’re lost in the empty fields. Those sensations are representative of each family member in ‘August: Osage County.’
The film, originally a Broadway show, was written by the same person who created the play. Tracy Letts introduces us to a high strung family who just cannot get along. However, it’s not so simple. Family can be complicated. Relationships, in general, can be complicated. And that is all too familiar for the Westons.
The family members, directed by John Wells (‘The Company Men’), executed their roles with perfection. You feel as if you are sitting down at the table with them, experiencing the tension. There’s no questioning Meryl Streep’s performance as the resentful, feisty and cold Violet. She was Violet. Just like Julia Roberts was her daughter, Barbara, or Julianne Nicholson as another of her daughters, Ivy, and Juliette Lewis as Karen, her third daughter. The casting was extremely well done.
All of the intertwining stories are complex and even incomprehensible as to why humans treat each other the way they do, but still, as an audience member, you feel for these characters. The “star” of the family, who needs the most attention, is Violet. That’s how she’s always been it seems from learning about her past. Unfortunately, she is suffering from cancer, and other personal issues (including relationships with her family). The many members of her family come to support her during a time of grief and boy does the word support have a different meaning in this family unit.
There’s constant bickering and harsh exchanges of words, but in between all of the ludicrous treatment of one another, there is some understanding and comfort. Part of the latter is the relationship between Ivy and Benedict Cumberbatch's character, Little Charles. They have much more reserved personalities and are the underdogs in their families; the ones whose voices aren’t heard like Barbara’s. They’re the only ones in the movie who seem to have some innocence.
Although, Barbara is innocent, too. She may be outspoken, but it’s because she cares. Audience members should make note of this before judging quickly. Even if you’re raised by one of the most critical and unbearable people on the planet, you can still retain your morals and strength. That’s what Barbara does. You can’t help but admire her determination to help her mother.
If there’s any lesson this movie might teach you it’s this: appreciate your loved ones. You may not mesh well, but at least make the attempt to have a conversation that doesn't involve degrading one another or judging actions. The Westons, especially Barbara, will teach you how to cope, and hopefully move forward, under convoluted circumstances.