Monday 27 January 2014

August : Osage County

Brace yourself - Streep's at it again. Watch her reign as head of the most dysfunctional family you will ever meet, in August : Osage County.

In the opening scene we meet Mr and Mrs Weston (Sam Shepherd, Meryl Streep), interviewing for a live-in aide. At their early retirement age, they are in need of some help; Violet Weston's cancer diagnosis has led her to a pill addiction and sparked her husband's drinking, and with two of their three daughters now living in other states, the family home is, like the parents themselves, looking pretty abandoned. But all is about to change as soon an event will be bringing the whole clan back, and with more secrets and heartaches to be revealed, eldest daughter Barbara (Julia Roberts) must act as glue to hold the entire family together.

I know I must sound like a bit of a broken record, but this film really does have an incredible cast. Between them they have 5 Academy Awards, 3 Baftas, 12 Golden Globes and about a million nominations. That makes for pretty good family genes. Of course Meryl Streep is the star, as she is with every movie she bats an eyelid in, but for me, the film would be nothing without Julia Roberts. Barbara is good cop, she's bad cop, she's saint and she's sinner, and whilst she supports everyone around her, who's there to support her? The two actresses have incredible on-screen chemistry, as if they really have been mother and daughter for forty years. That's to be said of the three siblings too. Julianne Nicholson was a new face to me but her role was incredibly powerful, and I'm sorry, but even if I'm not supposed to like her, Juliette Lewis will always be great in my eyes.

Like so many films this movie season, I was SO pleased to see the Brit boys (Ewan McGregor and Benedict Cumberbatch) holding their own against the Americans. Both gave excellent performances, and not an accent wobble in sight. When looking at Benedict Cumberbatch's awards list on the web, I'm shocked and stunned to see it full of nominations, and no big-whammy awards yet. Fingers crossed that's all about to change for him (although this year he was honoured by BAFTAs Los Angeles with a Britannia Award for British Artist of the Year - too bloody right!).

August : Osage County is quite often very funny (probably due to some exchanges between relatives being all too familiar...), but for me, this tragicomedy is certainly tragi-heavy. As the story progresses it becomes more bitter and bleaker, all coming to a climax at the extended dinner party scene that you may have seen on the ads and in interviews. Most of the audience were in hysterics as Roberts tackled Streep to the floor but personally, I found it all incredibly moving and hideously real. Addiction, death, disease, divorce, adultery, forbidden love and abandonment - not laughing matters, in my eyes.

I absolutely loved August : Orange County and am hugely surprised not to see it up for Best Picture. Still, I wish Streep and Roberts all the luck in the world for the big night. Yes, they've both been up on the acceptance podium before, but hey, two's company, right? (Or in Meryl's case, a potential FOURTH. That lady, what an award machine ;) )


  1. I have to disagree with you. I had the great pleasure of seeing this as a play several years ago and it was beyond powerful, but this film felt flat and forced. While there was a great cast, and fantastic screen adaptation from Tracy Letts, however I felt that the direction was lacking and it seemed too much like one of those ridiculous Rob Reiner films where he packs it with stars but no one has enough character or plot development to make it actually interesting. I didn't believe Julia as the beaten down Barbara even with the grey roots thrown in her hair for good measure. I can agree that Benedict Cumberbatch was believable in his role and much like the play I wanted to see more, I wanted to know more about him and have his part be a larger part. Thankfully it had been long enough from the time I'd seen the play that I'd forgotten a few of the twists and so I was still a little surprised with it. Overall I'd say this was a bit of a let down, and I'm not surprised that it wasn't nominated.

  2. Sorry you didn't feel the same way, Marcey. Having not seen the play, I can only comment on the impact that the movie had on me, and that was, to use your word, very powerful indeed. It wasn't the fact that they were stars that I thought made the movie great, but more their talent. Although the two do often go hand in hand, it would have been very easy to fill this film with stars that have no talent (there are plenty of them about), but as I mentioned in the piece, their acting abilities have been highly accredited and whether a big or small part, they all, in my opinion, acted to the highest degree, something that is so crucial to a complex story such as this. I know what it's like to see a piece you love not give the justice it deserves on screen, so that's a shame if you thought that about this.