Wednesday, December 18, 2013

August: Osage County - Movie Review

August: Osage County, directed by John Wells, is based on a popular stage play written by Tracy Letts. The movie features an amazing cast including Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Juliette Lewis, Chris Cooper, Sam Shepard, Abigail Breslin, Dermot Mulroney, Margot Martindale, Julianne Nicholson, and Benedict Cumberbatch. Seriously, I shouldn't have to say anything else to get you to see this movie...but I will because otherwise this would be a very short review.

Over the years, the Weston family has grown further apart and increasingly dysfunctional, but the bond that keeps them all together has always been Beverly Weston (Shepard), the patriarch of the family. After living what he feels is a full yet troubling life that he would not trade for anything, he decides that it is time for him to disappear leaving his wife Violet alone in their household with nothing but the prescription drugs she is hopelessly addicted to and a lifetime of memories that leave her nothing less than bitter and enraged.

Beverly and Violet's three daughters, Barbara (Roberts), Ivy (Nicholson), and Karen (Lewis), all quickly return home, at first to hopefully find their missing father, but when his body is found by the local authorities, the reunion turns into a much more somber affair. As the family begins to reassemble at the house that has stood as a testament to the Weston's accomplishments and has held together the family's history, it becomes apparent that Violet is not going to let any demons lie while she has the opportunity to air them out.

Yes, each member of the family brings their own unique set of personal issues to the table, but when they all gather for a post funeral dinner, Violet provides just the right amount of verbal kerosene to ignite a firestorm that could bring down the entire house and its only when Barbara, the eldest of the three sisters, decides that she has had enough that things really begin to get interesting.

There are movies you watch because they are visual spectacles that jump off the big screen while telling an epic story, but there are also movies that paint an intimate picture so lifelike, you can hardly keep from feeling like you are right in the middle of the story with the actors on the screen. Tracy Letts has done a wonderful job adapting his Pulitzer prize winning play into a movie so packed with emotional punch, it will leave you as drained as the dusty farmland of Osage county itself.

Even with a story as emotionally powerful as this one, the number one thing you will enjoy about this movie is the unbelievably high quality of acting across the board. You could easily say that just about everyone in the cast gives a performance that would rank among their best, but its Meryl Streep who answers the bell yet again and gives us such a gift in her portrayal of Violet that it may end up being her best ever.

I've always really enjoyed and respected Julia Roberts as an actress, but she really surprised me as she displays a range I wasn't aware she was capable of before seeing her in this picture. Another noteworthy cast member would be Chris Cooper who provides one of the movie's most emotionally wrenching moments, which is saying a lot considering the punch this movie packs in that regard. Benedict Cumberbatch and Margo Martindale have limited roles but somehow manage to own every scene they are in although I suppose that's not really a surprise given who they are and what they bring to the table.

August: Osage County, even with its odd title, will be one of those rare movies that earns the respect of critics and moviegoers alike and is sure to be a frontrunner in several different areas come awards time. Honestly, I wasn't sure how much I would like this movie as the subject matter isn't something I normally go running to see, but its really the quality of acting across the board that puts it over the top. While this year has been filled with so many good movies, I will find it very hard to not add this one to my list of favorites.


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