Review: August: Osage County

August: Osage County

August: Osage County
Dir. John Wells
Screenplay by Tracy Letts, adapted from the play by Letts
Starring: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Margo Martindale, Julianne Nicholson, Juliette Lewis, Chris Cooper, Benedict Cumberbatch, Abigail Breslin, Ewan McGregor, Dermot Mulroney, Sam Shepard, Misty Upham.
121 minutes

At the dinner party that is August: Osage County, Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts are served first; the rest of the cast gets their leftovers, but they didn’t leave much.

Based on the Pulitzer-prize winning play by Tracy Letts, who adapted it himself to the screen, August: Osage County tells the story of the Weston family, reunited during a scorching couple of days for the funeral of Beverly (Sam Shepard), the Weston patriarch. His wife Violet (Streep) is left to pick up the pieces and is all too happy to receive her three daughters Ivy (Julianne Nicholson), Karen (Juliette Lewis) and Barbara (Roberts) whom she skewers every chance she gets.

Each of the daughters has her backstory – Ivy stayed in Oklahoma and resents her sisters for not helping out with their parents more, Karen’s new beau Steve (Dermot Mulroney) doesn’t impress the family, Barbara’s marriage to Bill (Ewan McGregor) is falling apart – and Violet’s sister Mattie Fae (Margo Martindale, the only non-Streep-non-Roberts actor who gets even a crumb of the spotlight pie) provides some comic relief or, I should say, more ha-ha funny bits, as opposed to the dark and mean comic relief of the zingers from Streep’s Violet. August: Osage County never even pretends it’s not about Streep and Roberts flexing their thespian muscles. They get the best, meatiest lines, and when they confront each other – in three key scenes – the movie becomes a pissing contest between Roberts and Streep. It’s entertaining, and no doubt they are great performers, but it’s at times over the top and overindulgent. Streep’s Violet has mouth cancer and dances around wigless and in her bathrobe not once, not twice, but three times in August. Hell hath no fury like Roberts’ Barbara: her husband has left her for a younger woman and she routinely and happily bashes him in front of their 14-year-old daughter Jean (Abigail Breslin), in front of whom she has no problem dropping f-bombs. “If that’s your father, tell him to fuck off,” Barbara tells Jean when her daughter says someone’s on the phone for her. Every other character’s story is reduced to an soapy plot twist … eventually.

August: Osage County has some snappy dialogue and it’s often painfully funny, especially during the meal following the funeral. It’s a scene that gives a chance (a small one) for the Weston family (and the entire cast) to get a word in before Violet expertly rains on everyone’s parade and Streep steals the show which, to be a fair, is a show that would be a whole lot less interesting without her.

August: Osage County is playing in theatres across Montreal.

In a mostly spoiler-free scene, Roberts’ Barbara accosts Streep’s Violet to eat her fish.

Violet loves her daughter Ivy, but she just wishes she would take care of herself, so she can find herself a man.

Violet is not impressed with her daughter Karen’s new boyfriend Steve.

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