An extreme negative emotions film. August: Osage County is the season’s toughest film to watch, a family get together of insufferable proportions, based on the play by the very gifted Tracy Letts (“Bug” and “Killer Joe” were previous stage to film Letts adaptations). But this particular Letts piece is a rut. A family tragedy occurs, bringing all of the estranged family members home to face the very bellicose, and very delusional, matriarch Violet played by Meryl Streep. Her Violet is a tornado of drama, and anybody around gets sucked into a cursing match. Julia Roberts plays Barbara, the most reliable decision-maker of the family, and her personal life has suffered due to her mom’s overbearing nature. Julia can’t be the pretty woman when she’s encumbered by this much family chaos.
Violet is such a horrible mom (if she were there, you’d want to instantly bolt out of the room), that everyone else’s lives have suffered, too. So many are in this cast: Juliette Lewis, Chris Cooper, Margo Martindale, Sam Shepard, Dermot Mulroney, Abigail Breslin, Julianne Nicholson, Ewan McGregor (a tad shy!), Benedict Cumberland (a tad stupid!) – it would be wearisome to tell you what each person does in their roles. To suffice, they are all a dysfunctional bunch.
You listen and listen through the torrents of dialogue for juicy insight into these messed-up lives, and Letts’ original text doesn’t let you down – incest, adultery and bigotry are among these characters’ acts of misconduct. Amidst all that dirt, is the more intriguing finding that Violet is addicted to multiple prescription drugs (her favorite is downers). Will she be loving and gracious to her daughters once she’s off those drugs?
Streep is an iconic actress, but I got the feeling that this role is really a shrill ploy so she can play for the first time “Mommie Dearest.” It’s all so hideously compelling, watching Violet tear into her own family from time to time, but I’m not so sure it’s entertainment, or that relevant to most moviegoers.
119 Minutes. Rated R.
TWISTED DRAMA / ADULT ORIENTATION / FRIDAY NIGHT PLATE SMASHING
Film Cousins: “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” (1958); “Mommie Dearest” (1981); “A Thousand Acres” (1997); “Carnage” (2011).