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Sunday, 31 December 2017

Movie Review: August: Osage County (2013)

August: Osage County
Cast: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis, Dermot Mulroney, Sam Shepard
Genre: Comedy-Drama 
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $74 million 

Plot: A look at the lives of the strong-willed women of the Weston family, whose paths have diverged until a family crisis brings them back to the Oklahoma house they grew up in and to the dysfunctional woman who raised them 

'Mad To The Bone & Unpleasant, Yet Made Redeemable By Turns of Roberts & Streep'

Meryl Streep plays the pill-popping momma, Violet, Abigail Breslin is a teen junkie with Julia Roberts as the mother, August: Osage County is lacking in the feel-good factor and is a gussied up episode of a TV soap opera that quite frankly has little to say and with characters with little depth and characterisation, besides of them cursing or losing their temper. But it is just about saved by the great performances by the likes of Streep & Roberts. 

A narcotic addict of a mother, who doesn't let up and launches a foul-mouthed tirade every couple of mins, presides over a family reunion when her husband commits suicide, and with that, startling and shocking revelations begin to emerge with family members lashing out against & attacking each other, which is fuelled by Violet revelling and relishing at verbally mocking her eldest daughter, Barbara.

Branded as a comedy-drama, the now- notorious Harvey Weinstein co-produced the film with George Clooney, as the Pulitzer Prize-winning play is given the big- screen treatment, and yet far from it, there are little to no genuine laughs to be found in this somewhat vapid & unpleasant offering. People screaming and shouting obscenities and insults at each other for 2 hours hardly constitutes as amazing acting: there needs to be a balance in being confident, angry but also toning things down and acting naturally. 

Julia Roberts as Barbera is a foul-mouthed mother, who squabbles with her easy-going husband & falls out with her mother played by Meryl Streep; Barbera is foul-mouthed as Julia's other character, Erin Brockovich. One of the lines that stuck out was Barbera going, ''Eat The Fish, B****!'', which sort of amused me. Nonetheless, the problem is with Barbera, there is virtually little that is redeemable and, but for say, the scene where she hits out at her mother, I couldn't empathise with her enough. Streep as Violet belittles every member, or be it female member of the family and as much as I admire her as an actress, her character in this movie just sucks whatever fun it tries to evoke. or be it doesn't have out of it, much to Roberts's Barbera chagrin. Juliette Lewis is Barbera's perky & talkative sister, Carol, My Best Friend's Wedding's Dermot Mulroney plays a paedo creep who comes onto Breslin's character, whilst Benedict Cumberbatch turns in an admirable performance as one of the sons, Charles. But other than that and the mounting revelations that pile up & explodes in certain moments, as a film, it fails to engage the audience with the characters, but that is further hindered by the characters being dislikable and some character conversations that are boring and not inviting. Ewan McGregor is another great actor, but he was a miscast to me here as Barbera's husband, Bill and he didn't really wow me. The guys take a back seat to the female characters who dominate the narrative. 

Of course, dare I say it, there is a fight involving Barbara and Violet, with Julia Roberts as you've never seen her before unleashing her rage as Barbera & wrestling & tussling with her mother to the ground, as she tries to take the pills away from her. 

In addition to it being more entertaining and charming as it should have been, the whole story, which is far from unique in its direction, could have been easily told in the space of 90 mins or so, rather than stretching it to a bum-numbing, long-winded 2 hours. The drama, but for the arguments and insults, is staid and not that entertaining and for a film about a family, it virtually says nothing that is good, meaningful or positive about them, whatsoever. It's just miserable. That this family has been torn apart and there is no hope and are doomed. 

The performances are great and very strong; the story, due to John Wells's pedestrian and bland direction, on the other hand, is far from it. 

It was like watching a combination of a soap opera with an episode from The Jerry Springer Show come to life. 


Pros +

- Terrific performances from Meryl Streep, Juliette Lewis, Benedict Cumberbatch and Julia Roberts

- The squabble between Barbera and Violet at the dinner table

- Had some watchable moments

Cons -

- Mean-spirited and bloated affair 

- Abominable characters

- No subtlety whatsoever & bland direction 

Final Verdict

One of those films that deserved to remain on the small stage and perhaps not given the cinematic treatment, the great performances given by the actors are pummelled down by the lack of subtlety, sheer cynicism and a lack of a story that truly engages and makes it all the more fulfilling as a movie. August: Osage County is a film where I bought into the performances but not so much the characterisations and the lack of depth, understanding & compassion given to each of them by the screenwriter, is rather bewildering to see.  

More Oscar bait courtesy of John Wells, George Clooney and Harvey Weinstein, but for Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, it's just a movie where people lose their temper at every given opportunity and whilst that ups the ante a great deal, everything else doesn't quite live up. 

Without the great performances to back it up, August: Osage County would be practically an almost nothing film.


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