Cert: 15 Runtime: 121 mins Director: John Wells Cast: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor, Margo Martindale, Julianna Nicholson, Juliette Lewis and Benedict Cumberbatch
I thought we were having a funeral dinner not a cockfight
Prior to the awards season I didn’t here much about August: Osage County, what does strike me about it is the ensemble. We have some great acting talent here, most probably this is what drives people to the cinema. The film is based on Tracey Letts Pulitzer Prize winning show, I haven’t seen the play but I would now if the opportunity came about. So what is is all about? The three Weston daughters have lost touch over the years and return home following news that matriarch Violet (Meryl Streep) has been abandoned by her husband who has mysteriously disappeared. On returning to the house they grew up in and to the woman who raised them, the daughters begin to reconnect as they attempt to solve the family mystery. The original stage production is regarded as a dark comedy. But if the movie version is supposed to be funny, it seems no one bothered to tell the actors. They all seem to be playing the scenes with a deadly a serious tone, and rightfully so. The movie depicts some serious issues: cancer, drug addiction, suicide, divorce, incest and corruption of a minor. There’s no dark comedy here, just plain darkness.
Meryl Streep is as always phenomenal. Her performance is powerful and devastating. Julia Roberts, who plays eldest daughter Barbara, is also commanding, though her character is anything but charming. If you’ve always longed to see America’s Sweetheart act somber and bitter for two hours, this is the movie for you. Her trademark smile is nowhere in sight. Best performance by her in a long time. Julianne Nicholson displays a poignant determination as another sister, Ivy, who strives for happiness despite some pretty insurmountable obstacles. Their performances are so good, it’s almost hard to believe the movie is so unsatisfying. Never have I seen such good acting in the service of a story so unappealing.While most of the cast is stellar, there are two notable exceptions: Ewan McGregor and Benedict Cumberbatch both struggle with their American accents. While I truly admire the previous work of both men, I had to wonder, with all the out of work thespians in Hollywood, couldn’t the producers find two American actors who were talented enough to play the roles? Cumberbatch, in particular, surely isn’t hurting for employment. It seemed like he was in every other movie released in 2013.I haven’t talked much about the plot. That’s because there isn’t much of one.
There’s no goal or objective for the characters to achieve, no central question (i.e. will there be a happy ending?) that keeps us interested until it’s answered in the movie’s climax. Yes, Barbara takes steps to confront Violet’s drug addiction. And yes, some characters have secrets that are revealed along the way. But none of these moments coalesce into anything resembling a story with a beginning, middle and an end. Essentially, this movie is just a bunch of cruel, unhappy people shouting at each other for two hours. They’re trapped together in a house and the audience is trapped along with them.There are interesting themes beneath the surface: overcoming the troubled circumstances of your upbringing and how a child’s love for their parent can endure despite constant abuse. But the themes are never developed into a message or a conclusion. All of this must’ve worked on the stage. After all, they don’t just hand out Pulitzers. But it doesn’t work as a movie.