Friday, January 10, 2014

August: Osage County

Tonight I saw August: Osage County, starring Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts.

Vi (Streep) is short for "Violet," but really it should be short for "vile."

Her character, the matriarch of a severely dysfunctional Midwestern family, is the verbal equivalent of Mommie Dearest, spitting venom in every direction to her three grown daughters (and everyone else in her path).

Her sainted husband Beverly (Sam Shepherd), has just died and the crowd has descended on her home for the burial and mourning.

In the days that follow, her girls Barbara (Roberts), Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) and Karen (Juliette Lewis) alternately uncover and reveal secrets about themselves and others, which culminates in an eruption of emotion that plays out mostly during one tense, long, hilarious, draining dinner scene.

My favorite person in the whole movie? Chris Cooper, who plays Violet's sweet brother-in-law Charlie. He's the voice of reason—the calm before, during and after the storm—and is also a victim of the poisonous clan. Cooper plays it with such good-old-boy grace, I wanted to hug him at the end.

Meryl Streep is unsurprisingly fabulous in the role. It's a film based on a play and she plays it like a play, but that's not a bad thing. Also endearing is Julianne Nicholson, who I've admired since Flannel Pajamas, and really gets the chance to shine here with her character of several dimensions.

Margo Martindale owns her hilarious and tragic role as Violet's sister, Mattie Fae, and sparkles in authenticity.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't thoroughly entertained: laughing, crying and gasping all the way through. But I do wish they hadn't talked about the heat so much (we got it after the first two fan scenes), I thought the Native American jokes got old and there are a few others who probably could've tackled the role of Barbara in a less abrasive way and made her more sympathetic.

But overall, well done. A slice of life that cuts deep.


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