There should be a warning before August: Osage County, not for potentially graphic content but for the level of acting. At times, it threatens to overwhelm, which you can expect with the likes of Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, and Juliette Lewis in key roles.
That you can then throw in the likes of Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, and Benedict Cumberbatch should not go unnoticed either. A lot is going on as trials, tribulations, rivalries, and revelations threaten to tear the family apart yet you cannot turn away.
To bring the play to life, a stellar cast has been assembled with Meryl Streep in exemplary form as Violet Weston.
This looks to be common ground for Streep having been nominated for Oscars playing similar roles and she does not disappoint, popping pills like candy.
She won in 2012 for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady and here she continues her skill of playing flawed characters who evoke pity and horror in equal measure.
If you enjoyed her as Sister Aloysius in Doubt or as in The Devil Wears Prada as Miranda Priestly then you should revel in her performance here as the combustive matriarch of the family.
The extended family is also packed with acting talent as daughters, Barbara (Julia Roberts) and Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) create some great, claustrophobic set pieces.
Though Violet has her own troubles with a pain pill addiction and mouth cancer, this is a family coming close to blowing up as they try to manage everything else.
That Barbara believes she is to blame for the misbehavior of her own family only makes the spats look even more venomous. There is some light relief delivered by Karen (Juliette Lewis) who prefers to be blind to the truth to maintain her sunny outlook.
Some family dramas seem to hold back on the real pain, those barbs that dig under the skin and stay there only to be picked at later on.
August: Osage County finds ample opportunities to stick the knife in and then twist it so you wonder how far they can go at times.
Barbara already has her hands full dealing with her mother yet has a grumpy teenager for a daughter herself played by Abigail Breslin.
Even her husband, played by Ewan McGregor, is a womanizer so you can expect Roberts had her work cut out yet her performance excels.
Then there is the rest of the family including Karen who has managed to escape the homestead whose scenes work well with Ivy who got away.
You can worry about Ivy’s sanity and the home feels like a cauldron at times, such are the resentments brewing away in the sweltering heat of summer. Of who stayed, who left, and how damaging it is to even be in the homestead for a short period of time.
It may be best simply to side with someone neutral such as Johnna, played by Misty Upham, who is the nurse hired to care for Violet by her late husband.
Based On The Tony And Pulitzer-Winning Play
There are some plays that are destined for the big screen and August: Osage County fits the bill. The dark yet utterly humorous play was written by Tracy Letts, who adapted the screenplay.
Though the film is appropriately pared down, it still goes a long way to capturing that vicious interplay between an accomplished set of actors even if they are simply sitting around a table.
The revelations are hurtful, the taunts are corrosive, and the action is hard to watch yet tough to turn away from with the play’s structure is put to excellent use.
Sure, there is ample profanity, smoking, and drinking yet the real drama is between the family members. The plot thickens as more revelations come out and the situation only seems to get worse.
At times, the film works as a case study of how families operate in the toughest of circumstances. From suicide, to drunken behavior, adultery, and incest, you would not wish most of that on anyone yet seeing it play out can become devotedly fascinating.
The end result of the adaptation is a compelling family drama that should be affecting yet feels exhausting. Even the most functional of families have their moments yet with so many emotions being toyed with and tested, you can be forgiven for turning away.
The arguments only seem to get worse as a suicide acts as a bombshell that threatens to tear the family apart. Yet knowing that so much has already happened leaves the viewer compelled to see how the latest revelation will play out.
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