August: Osage County

By Peter Towe

Published on Monday, January 13, 2014


August: Osage County, the new film by director John Wells, is adapted from Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize winning play of the same name.  The screenplay was written by Letts and stars Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliet Lewis, Margo Martindale, and Sam Shepard.  The all-star cast brings Letts’ stage drama to the big screen very faithfully, but while the acting is very well done the story can get a bit tiresome by the end.  Meryl Streep leads the all-star cast as matriarch Violet Weston, a pill addicted woman who holds nothing back and lets everyone know what she is thinking, regardless of who she offends.  Her husband Beverly Weston (Sam Shepard), whose substance of choice is alcohol, is also a writer but he hasn’t written much recently because it gets in the way of his drinking.  Beverly and Violet’s relationship has suffered over the years, and when he couldn’t take it anymore he decides to drown himself.  This leaves Violet in her house with only the Native American maid Beverly brought in to help her around the house since she had been dealing with mouth cancer.  Beverly’s three daughters, who do not get along with their mother, must come home and be with Violet.  Ivy (Julian Nicholson), Karen (Juliette Lewis), and the most opinionated of the sisters Barbara (Julia Roberts), all come together and from the beginning things go wrong.  Every relationship in this wild family is crazy, from Violet’s sister, who she is closest to, sleeping with Beverly, having a child, and now the two siblings are in love but don’t know they’re brother and sister.  August: Osage County being adapted from the stage play keeps the action in a handful of sets.  The film is shot well, but the script and more significantly the acting carry the film in what turns out to be a fairly exhausting and awkward two hours.


The film was structured around Meryl Streep’s Violet, and as usual she does as more than adequate job carrying the film.  Streep will get her usual Oscar nomination for the role, as it will be much deserved, but I doubt she will walk away with the award in the end.  There were too many solid performances to go into each one, from Chris Cooper’s quiet and proud Charles Aiken to his son “Little” Charles, played by Benedict Cumberbatch.  Julia Roberts’ performance as Violet’s daughter Barbara was the other real bright spot of the film.  Out of the three sisters, Barbara is the most similar to their mother.  Roberts did an excellent job, as she was forced to display the full spectrum of emotions, which even for the viewer was exhausting to watch.


At a run time of two hours, August: Osage County at times seemed to drag and seems like it could have had some things cut out.  I’m sure this is where many would disagree, but for me I didn’t connect with the characters the same way many people seem to have.  By the end of the film I was exhausted, and could have used maybe a bit more humor.

August: Osage County was executed the way the filmmakers and playwright intended, but it was hard for me to connect with the characters.  The film is a character piece, which is pulled off well with the acting and writing, however, I don’t think the film will attract many that haven’t already seen and enjoyed the play.  The names are big enough that it will draw people in with their performances, it’s just not a film I was overly excited about as I left the theater.  Fans of the play and fans of Meryl Streep will also enjoy the film, as it was well made, it just may not be for everyone.

August: Osage County stars Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliet Lewis, Margo Martindale, Sam Shepard, and is in theaters nationwide.

The Good

+ Meryl Streep is as good as ever

+ All star cast carries film

The Bad

- Exhausting film to watch

- The family yells at each other for 2 hours


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