Meryl Streep’s borderline scenery-chewing performance heads up this dark dramedy featuring a number of A-list actors.
Based on a 2007 stage play, August: Osage County is a black-hearted drama about the Weston Family, who come together at Violet’s (Meryl Streep) house after her husband commits suicide. Every single member of the family has pent-up resentment towards someone, and all carry with them loads of baggage. The amount of vicious and hateful words some of these family members say to each other in the days following the funeral is unsettling, and there is no shortage of dysfunction to be found.
The reason for most of this dysfunction is Meryl Streep’s pill-popping drug addict of a mother. Though her performance is so boisterous and loud that it could be classified as overacting, her character’s hatred and drug-induced tirades are what pushes the story forward. Aside from all these relative’s various problems with each other, there isn’t much else in terms of an actual story.
On an artistic level, the dreary small-town-life of August captured on film looks great, and the script is surely an actor’s dream, as it gives ample opportunities for all these characters to spend a moment in the spotlight: tirades, bickering, fights, and all. For a movie that is pretty much entirely dialogue, the great performances from actors like Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ewan McGregor, and Chris Cooper keep the film continually fresh and interesting. Despite the story being subpar (and leaving the audience depressed with its sudden ending), that might be reason enough for some to want to see it.
August: Osage County is a powerhouse of acting performances, but not much more. The story is nothing new or remarkable, seeming more like a sloppily-put-together narrative with great dialogue to attract high-caliber actors. That worked, but once the acting’s done, the overall depressing atmosphere and unsatisfying conclusion leave much to be desired.
August: Osage County is rated R for “language and drug references.” The offensive language pops up often throughout the film, and Violet’s drug addiction is often referenced. We see her pop pills like they’re candy, and her husband is shown to be an alcoholic. A grown man tries to “seduce” a teenage girl, and it is revealed that a character slept with his sister-in-law, among the other family secrets. For these reasons, August is for adults only.
© Matt Tory, 2013.