August: Osage County

Distributed by: The Weinstein Company

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


                Sitting at home on a Saturday, tired to the bone, I didn't even feel like getting out of my chair to go to the theaters and check out a movie.  So, instead, I decided to rent one.  Scrolling through the choices, I found August: Osage County and, laughing at the memory of the promos showing Julia Roberts wrestling Meryl Streep to the floor, decided to choose that.

                Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Tracie Letts, August: Osage County takes place during an unusually hot August in Oklahoma.  Notable poet and alcoholic Beverly Weston (Sam Shepard) has just hired Native American Johnna (Misty Upham) to be cook and caretaker to his sharp-tongued drug addicted wife Violet (Meryl Streep).  Violet is dying of mouth cancer, but we soon learn that her soul died long ago.

                The Weston Family is far-flung, as much to get away from the drama of the Weston home as anything else.  Ivy Weston (Julianne Nicholson) is the middle daughter, choosing to stay close to home to care for her parents.  Eldest daughter Barbara (Julia Roberts) lives in Colorado with her husband Bill (Ewan McGregor) and teenage daughter (Abigail Breslin).  Youngest daughter Karen (Juliette Lewis) lives in Florida with her latest boyfriend Steve (Dermot Mulroney)

                When Beverly disappears, the family comes together in Oklahoma to find him.  Violet's bossy sister Mattie Fae (Margo Martindale) and her long-suffering husband Charles (Chris Cooper) arrive to help.  Unfortunately, the family soon learns that Beverly has committed suicide, drowning himself in a lake.  Barbara, long considered by her mother to be the strong one, much to the chagrin of Ivy, is horrified by her father's actions, but not much surprised.  Living in her mother's household can wear on an individual's soul.

                The proof of those words can be found in Beverly and Violet's children.  Barbara's marriage is failing, her husband having an affair despite the fact that he still loves her.  The reason: she has become as evil-spirited as her mother.  Ivy has fallen in love with someone finally and has been keeping this a secret, planning on moving away once the funeral for her father is over to be with her cousin Little Charles (Benedict Cumberbatch).  Unfortunately, Ivy isn't the only person keeping a secret about Little Charles and this secret threatens to crush Ivy once revealed.  Karen has moved from one sleazy boyfriend to another, constantly searching for the love she missed out on at home, only to find the same abusive relationship she already had in the Weston household.

                We learn that Violet has a reason for her cantankerous attitude and drug addiction.  Violet was an abused child, both physically and emotionally.  Instead of finding a way out of the relationship and happiness with Beverly, she sank deeper and deeper into depression, using drugs to float away from her unhappy memories into a constant state of doped up reality.  During her bouts with addiction, her daughters have suffered her sharp tongue, Violet unconsciously perpetuating the cycle of verbal abuse she received from her mother, if not the physical, completely screwing up her children's future lives.

                Wow, what a sad, depressing movie.  Don't get me wrong, the acting was terrific and I can completely understand the dysfunctional family storyline, having come from a dysfunctional family myself...though, happily, not as bad as the Westons.  But, man, do you end up leaving this film feeling not only bad for the Weston daughters, but just depressed in general.  I think the ending of the film is meant to be uplifting in a way for one of the daughters, but for everyone else, the ending is just downright sad.  And the fact that everyone ends up alone, whether with someone or not, is...well, to sum it up in one word: DAMN!

                Were there some good points in this film?  Sure - that scene in which Julia Roberts pounces on Meryl Streep at the family dinner after the funeral is hysterical.  I have longed to repeat that action myself, but have been forced to refrain from doing so.  There are quite a few zingers in the movie dealt out to many that offer up a chuckle or two.  I love the chemistry between Streep and Roberts, two excellent actresses portraying adversaries who wish they could be closer, but constantly seem to be pushing everyone they love out of their lives.  I cheered when Johnna attacked Steve, revealing him to be the loser creep that to the family that the rest of the audience already knew he was. 

                Other than the incredible acting and the chuckle or two, August: Osage County was a rather depressing movie that I doubt I will ever be inclined to watch again.


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