In the movie’s opening scene, Meryl Streep walks onto the screen and she might as well be wearing a sign that says, “I am trying to win an OSCAR, DAMMIT!!!!” I have to admit, it is one of the best opening scenes for any character in many years as we watch Streep walking a very fine line between big time acting or chewing up the scenery like Homer Simpson locked in a doughnut shop overnight.
In August: Osage County, Julia Roberts stars as Barbara Weston – a woman from a very complicated family in Oklahoma (aren’t all families complicated?). A tragedy has brought her and her sisters back home, which means they have to face their monstrous, overbearing mother, Violet (Meryl Streep).
Of course, everyone has a secret to hide, and all of those secrets will be revealed in the most stunning and soap opera-like fashion. Sparks will fly!
Adapted from the Broadway play by Tracy Letts (who wrote the screenplay), August: Osage County plays more like the worst ever episode of General Hospital than an Oscar winning movie. It feels more like a parody.
The complications and conflicts start off as a banal series of secrets like who is getting divorced and why, who is getting married, and who is having a new love affair, but Letts and director John Wells soon find themselves upping the ante to melodramatic heights. This escalates to levels unseen since the worst twists of Dallas or Dynasty and drove me to give up emotionally and intellectually on the film.
Then, the audience is treated to crazy, over-the-top showdowns, including the most uncomfortable and combustible dinner in the history of movies. This puts those Sunday night dinners at the Sopranos place to shame as the audience wallows in hurt feelings, and ancient history.
Yet, it is enjoyable to watch the cast in action. It’s an actors’ movie, especially Streep in the kind of bombastic performance that has you laughing in appreciation, and maybe a little bit of mockery. Her character is the rabble-rouser. No matter how mean and vile it might be, Streep is the one you can’t stop watching, but Roberts goes toe to toe with the legend, AND SURVIVES!
August: Osage County is a bit too wrapped up in the overplayed idea that families are horrible and dysfunctional, which drives the material to the absurd.
August: Osage County is rated R for language including sexual references, and for drug material.