Title: August: Osage County
Director: John Wells
Writer: Tracy Letts
Music: Gustavo Santaolalla
Cinematography: Adriano Goldman
Any film adapted from an awards-winning play is prominently a fertile ground for any decent thespians to seize various meaty roles and to be transported to the road to Oscar and Weinstein company is unrivalled for this manuveur, last year’s surefire is AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY, and ends up adding a solid brick to Streep’s insuperable nomination record for actors, now ups to 18 (and keeps surging), and a welcome-back recognition for an over-the-hill Julia Roberts (once the most bankable female movie star in Hollywood if younger generation is oblivious about that).
Viewers are strong-armed into unleash our emotional investment to this dysfunctional family embroilment from the very start when patriarch Beverly Weston (Shepard) takes on silent treatment to the acrimonious fit of his cancer-struck, pills-guzzling wife Violet (Streep), in front of the newly-hired Indian helper Johnna (Upham), Streep is fearlessly transformed into a dishevelled gorgon and oozes utter antipathy in the short preamble.
Soon, Beverly leaves without saying goodbye, which precipitates their oldest daughter Barbara (Roberts) to go back with her separated husband Bill (McGregor) and teenage daughter Jean (Breslin), meanwhile, their unmarried second daughter Ivy (Nicholson), is the one who lives nearby as the parents’ caretaker, also lives nearby is the family of Violet’s sister Mattie Fae (Martindale), with her husband Charlie (Cooper) and their son Little Charles (Cumberbatch).
Later Beverly’s body is discovered in a river as the result of a presumed suicide, family gathers together for the funeral (no other alternative to bring each and every family member under the same roof is the painful reality), including their youngest daughter Karen (Lewis) with her new boyfriend Steve (Mulroney). Grippingly, all the conflict is put on the table when Violet viciously verbal-abuses almost everyone during a family dinner, clearly under the influences of whatever drugs she has ingested, the centred dispute between Barbara and Violet breaks out, and secrets are appositely divulged, we become insatiable to dig deeper into each character’s back story, because the ensemble is impeccable and females take possession the main stage.
Playwright Tracy Letts emanates great eloquence in dissecting the delicacy among siblings, the guilty-steered stratagem and leavening the burdensome reality with cruel honesty as a fatal catalysis, like Violet audaciously remarks in front of her two daughters, “every parent has his or her favourite child”, when approaching to the end, everyone leaves except Barbara, we begin to think maybe the spite runs in the bloodline, today’s Violet is a projection of tomorrow’s Barbara, we all resemble our parents in a certain way, but in the Weston Family, there are nothing but damaged goods. Preferably the relieved closing shots betrays a more positive note.
Streep is the well-deserved show-stopper, her superlative incarnation of a pretty repulsive character is virtuous, and she doesn’t even try to offset the blemishes by making Violet at least a shade sympathetic, plus no one likes a know-it-all. Probably, Streep’s presence also spurs the rest of the cast, Roberts, who has been in nadir since she reaches the glass-ceiling age for actresses, is at her best when exerting the fierce confrontation and fully-anticipated outburst, we may all have a soft spot for Ivy, but it is Barbara we are rooting for since the beginning, it is a tough role but can reassure us her bent for a wide range. Both crack into my leading actress race.
There is a reshuffle in my supporting actor/actress rank too, Nicholson, Cooper and Martindale are my pick, each establishes his or her distinctive presence in the right moment, Nicholson has the most dramatic twist to exploit, Cooper is mesmerising in his explosion and Martindale gives a forbidding truth revelation indicates more unspecified anger contrasts to her amiable facade; Lewis is a tricky one, I adore her interpretation of a woman desperately banks on her tiny hope of happiness with an untrustworthy figure, but simultaneously being annoyed by her. Last but not the least, two British heartthrobs are two fish out of water in the all-American environs while Mulroney and Breslin are superfluously forgettable.
Two hours fleet through smoothly, but with hindsights, it is an effective emotion cleansing from an artificially deflated scenario and moderately sanctimonious and histrionic, it is difficult to detect enough quota of sincerity or freshness.