August: Osage County is a challenging, poetic, frustrating, glorious and unforgettable film. Author Tracy Letts translated his award winning, three plus hour play into a crisp and haunting, sharp and biting, unpredictable and hilarious family drama infused with more laughs than most contemporary comedies.
A prominent member of the large, seemingly loving Oklahoma family, the Westons, dies drawing generations of the family home to help deal with the mess. In the process, three sisters reunite with a collision of actions and words that forever change each other’s futures. Plot twists arise from every day turmoil and changes, the dissolvement of a family, the revelation of unrealized dreams and love found in the wrong place.
Beautifully filmed in the open prairies of Oklahoma, the sunset shades of oranges and browns are carried throughout the costumes and lighting to give a pallid feeling of warmth with a strong undertone of tension.
The impressive cast includes: Juliette Lewis, Dermot Mulroney, Margo Martindale and Ewan McGregor. The only weak link is Abigail Breslin who gets swallowed up in her role. Her discomfort on screen is all the more awkward when she is paired with the likes of Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts and Chris Cooper. Benedict Cumberbatch delivers a small but deeply rendered character who can’t help but leave an impression on even the most jaded viewers.
Julia Roberts is at her best and Meryl Streep proves once again why she is the goddess of the silver screen. She delivers a monologue about a pair of boots that she wanted as a child for Christmas with such precision that the theater I was in was struck silent.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was the performance of Julianne Nicholson as Ivy. Arguably the most subtle of the female performances in the film, she not only hold her own with the all star cast, at times she surpasses them. Her final scene is charged with a quiet passion that chills the air.
Anyone who lives with or has dealt with a dysfunctional family, will find something to relate to in this incredible film about family, our choices and the things that we have to live through.
*The version that I’m reviewing is the early release as shown at the Houston Cinema Arts Festival. A slightly shorter version is slated for a Christmas 2013 release date.*