MOVIE REVIEW – August: Osage County

august-osage-countyI was not sure I even wanted to see it. The reviews were decidedly mixed on August: Osage County. Worse, the campaign promoting the film changed from being a scene-chewing drama to a dark comedy, so I was suspicious. But then SamuraiFrog recommended it, AND related to it. Also, it DID have a couple of Oscar-nominated actresses in it. So I went with a friend to the Spectrum in Albany, The Wife being out of town with The Daughter.

Some negative reviewer complained that the movie was not as strong as the Tony-winning play – which I did not see – despite both being written by Tracy Letts; I did see some staginess, especially in particular snippets of dialogue occasionally. Others blamed John Wells’ direction.

Critic Richard Roeper called the movie: “A sometimes wickedly funny but ultimately sour, loud, draining tale of one of the most dysfunctional families in modern American drama.” Reviewer Anthony Morris said: “Instead of building to some tragic-comedic level of peak awfulness, [it] lurches from revelation to revelation without coming together as anything more than a sloppy weekend where a lot of nasty crap goes down.” I tend to agree with both of these assessments.

And yet, I found something oddly compelling about these folks. You know people who seem to attract drama in their lives? I certainly do. My friend suggested that the former in-laws were much like the matriarch, played by Meryl Streep, and her children. I think Streep came off playing her role so well because, she has noted, she attempted to emulate Margo Martindale, who played her sister.

Was it only coincidence that the three daughters were played by actresses with similar first names, Julia Roberts, Juliette Lewis, and Julianne Nicholson? They were convincing as siblings, the youngest of whom got stuck at home; I can relate.

The other roles, by Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dermot Mulroney, Sam Shepard, and Misty Upham were all fine.

All this to say that I BELIEVED in these people, that there are, in Oklahoma or elsewhere, these complicated people in their screwed-up lives. It was a good, not great movie, but I’m glad I saw it. You may have to be in the right frame of mind to meet this clan.

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