Tuesday, December 31, 2013

August: Osage County

     Director John Wells adapts Tracy Letts' Pulitzer prize winning play for the big screen with an all star cast and a screenplay by Mr. Letts. Live on Broadway, this tale of the very dysfunctional Westin family was an emotional powerhouse but on screen it loses some of that punch. If you've seen the play, you won't feel as involved with the characters on film but you may feel differently if this is your first time.

       Meryl Streep stars as Violet Westin, the pill popping matriarch of the family and she delivers the emotional fireworks in a typically amazing Streep performance. When circumstances bring the immediate family together, every secret and dysfunction in this family's closet comes pouring out, especially during the centerpiece of the film, the dinner scene.

         Violet's three daughters are played by Julia Roberts as Barbara, Julianne Nicholson as Ivy, and Juliette Lewis as Karen. Ms. Roberts carries most of the burden as the eldest daughter who spars with her mother throughout the film. The men in the film are played by Sam Shepard, Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor, Dermot Mulroney, and Benedict Cumberbatch. All are very good in their respective roles but as written, they are support players to the women. The film also stars Abigail Breslin as Barbara's daughter, Misty Upham as Violet's caretaker Johnna and the ubiquitous Margo Martindale as Mattie Fae, Violet's sister. 

           The majority of the story takes place in the Westin home with the camera opening up a bit to the Oklahoma landscapes. The film is a dark comedy. There are many great lines and funny moments but at it's core, it can be difficult to watch. It's not exactly the feel-good movie of the year but it does have a lot to offer, especially the performances of Ms. Streep and Ms. Roberts.

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