Watching “August: Osage County” several things ran through my head:
1) What a great 1940s,1950s movie this would have made
2) Where is Bette Davis when you need her? She would have acted the role of Violet
Weston off the screen where Meryl Streep just ’acts’
3) No doubt Tracy Letts, who wrote the 3 hour Pulitzer prize winning play and this
2 hour and 10 minute screenplay, is the heir to Tennessee Williams, Eugene
O’Neil and Edward Albee
4) We know it is a 21st century screenplay with all the women throwing around the
“F” word along with a talk fest shouting out the various names for a woman’s
Vagina--Warner Brothers would never allowed that.
“August: Osage County” is about a family and their secrets--which many can be guessed--with an all star cast. We start by meeting Beverly Weston (Sam Shepard) who admits he is an alcoholic and he tells us that his wife Violet (Meryl Streep) ‘takes pills’. He is interviewing Johanna (Misty Upham) as a full time home and caretaker. He quotes T.S. Eliot saying “Life is very long.”
We meet their 3 children, the oldest being Barbara (Julia Roberts) who is separated from her husband Bill (Ewan McGregor) and their vegan, pot smoking teenage daughter Jean (Abigail Breslin). The middle daughter Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) is the only one who remained home and has a secret of her own while the youngest one, Karen (Juliette Lewis) has brought her fiancée Steve (Dermot Mulroney) home. There is Violet’s sister, Nattie Fae (Margo Martindale), her husband, Charlie (Chris Cooper) and their adult son Little Charles (Benedict Cumberbatch).
With a professional cast like this it takes a lot to be a standout but Julia Roberts is and in her scenes with Streep not only holds her own but bests her a few times. Chris Cooper has a stunning monologue while Martindale makes a confession that could be laughable but makes very believable. Cumberbatch underplays his role to effect while Mulroney seems to be a fish out of water as a ‘player’ from Miami in Oklahoma would be while Lewis doesn’t fit in as a member of this family.
Letts, compressing his 3 hour play, can’t seem to make the story anything but a soap opera with star turns for all the cast. John Wells, the director, opened the stage play to include many outdoor scenes but the major action takes place in the house. There are no intermissions as there are in plays so about 10 minutes of ‘artistic’ shots could have and should have been cut.
Both Streep and Roberts have been up for many awards, winning a few, and in all probability will be nominated for Oscars as Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. Both have very stiff competition and I doubt either will win but the latetr certainly deserves to win.
“August: Osage County” is a throw back to films of old but I think it would have been better if shorter and a ‘quieter’ actress (or Bette Davis) playing the role of Violet.