Sunday, January 26, 2014

August: Osage County

*** out of ****

August: Osage County features an all-star cast, including Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts (both up for Oscars), as a crumbling family, bitterly reunited after the disappearance of the patriarch.

This is a darkly comic drama featuring themes of suicide, infidelity, incest and drug abuse. It is based on a play by Tracy Letts. From my experience with two other films also based on his work, Bug and Killer Joe, this one seems comparatively light.

The pill-popping cancer-suffering mother (Streep) gathers her family members after her husband (Sam Shepard) hires a housekeeper (Misty Upham) and leaves. With her sister (Margo Martindale), brother-in-law (Chris Cooper), three daughters (Roberts, Juliette Lewis, and Julianne Nicholson), and granddaughter (Abigail Breslin) under one roof, she takes plenty of opportunities to degrade every one of them.

While this is a very cynical story about family and the filthy secrets that rise to the surface with age, I felt a kind of painful empathy for its flawed characters. The movie only lost me for a minute or two, when it added one scandal too many to this house of misfit Oklahomans.

This is another good big-cast film of 2013, which means that Benedict Cumberbatch had to put in an appearance and he was good enough to do that. Ewan McGregor plays Roberts’ separated husband and it should be said that he should stay away from American accents. They seem harmful to him.

It is really the women of this film who are its foundation and there is a lot of honor you must give them for the humiliation involved in becoming their characters. This movie is funny but not fun… if that makes any sense.

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