14A) August : Osage County (TIFF 2013)
The Weinstein Company.
Running Time: 120 Minutes
3 and a half stars out of 4.
John Well’s film August : Osage County based on the Pulitzer Prize winning play of the same name premiered at this years Toronto International Film Festival, and I was fortunate enough to attend the world premiere where the ensemble cast and some of the crew including Weinstein Company head Harvey Weinstein introduced the film. The time I am writing this review, I have seen this film twice…its that good. This is a near excellent film, that succeeds on the strength of its very talented cast particularly Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, and a great screenplay. This is a film that almost makes you feel better about your family, because the Westen family as portrayed in the film, are a very unconventional family. In the film, Violet Weston (Meryl Streep) is the matriarch of the Weston family, a foul mouthed, pill popping mouth cancer patient. Violet is married to Beverly Weston (Sam Sheppard) a very depressed elder man, who is having trouble coping with Violet at this time of her life. After Beverly commits suicide (Not a spoiler), the entire Weston family gathers at his and Violets home, for the weekend, to attend the funeral. The one weekend they spend together, is a weekend filled with physical fights, a lot of yelling, and heartfelt and raw moments. This essentially is a film about unlikeable people yelling at other unlikeable people, but the the film Becomes so much more than that, thanks to Tracey Letts spot on script. August : Osage County ranks among this years best.
Just give Meryl Streep the Best Actress Oscar now. That is how excellent she is as Violet. She takes a very unlikable and over the top character, and finds the humility and humour in it. You forget you are watching Meryl Streep on screen almost two minutes in to the film, and like all of her past performances, she becomes the character. Violet is such a great character, and is memorable, because of her witty, cruel, and foul dialogue, and her incredible one liners. Julia Roberts is back on screen with an excellent co-lead performance, and after not making many successful films since her Oscar win in 2001, she returns with a great performance as Barbara, a tough hard on nails women that ends up running the family. Her Barbara is just as crazy as every other character in the film, but you still care for her. You understand where she is coming from, and you understand all of her actions, she is going through a tough time in her life. Roberts holds her own against Meryl Streep, and in the fight between the two(its on the poster), she ends it with a chilling line to Violet. Roberts deserves supporting actress awards buzz for her performance, and from what I have seen could be a spoiler to win. Aunt Mattie Fai is played very well by TV star Margo Martindale, in a brief performance Martindale is able to make the most of her limited screen time by making the very mean spirited and cruel lines she says very believable. She has great chemistry with Meryl Streep, and if she had more screen time she would also deserve to be getting awards nomination buzz. The rest of this large ensemble also do a great job. Chris Cooper, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis, Julianne Nicholson, Abigail Breslin, Sam Sheppard, this star studded cast all work well together, and all do a great job, to the point where you actually believe they are a real family. The weakest link is Abigal Breslin as Jean, Barbaras Daughter. Im not sure if that is how the character was written, but she is a very boring and somewhat annoying character, and its in her scenes when the film really drags along, but nothing against the performance, I just think that Tracey Letts could have given the talented actress more to do, other than play the typical annoying teenager, that she normally portrays.
August : Osage County mainly takes place in The Weston Family Home, and because of this, makes the film feel almost too much like a stage play. I admire Tracey Letts for turning his over three hour play into a two hour film, and from what I have heard he included only the best material in the film adaptation.
Now, there is many things that work in this film, such as the chemistry the cast has, the performances, but many things do not work. For instance, the many surprises that are revealed about the family are not always plausible, and do not always make sense, and without spoiling anything, the ending which is very different from the stage play, is unoriginal, and feels too similar to the way that many other films have concluded.
For the first half of the film, Meryl Streep's Violet is the main character while everyone else are supporting characters, but halfway through the film, it felt as if they completely forgot about Violet, as the film switches lead characters to Julia Roberts Barbara. The change in lead characters, is hard to adapt to, but you eventually get used to it.
August : Osage County is a very depressing film, and captures what real families are really like. Despite, being a bit long, and having abrupt tonal shifts, it is Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts incredible performances that carry this film, and make this one of the most memorable films of 2013.