Based on the play by Tracy Letts (Killer Joe), August: Osage County is an ensemble dramedy about one very dysfunctional family, coming together in the wake of tragedy. After the disappearance of family patriarch Beverly Weston (Sam Shepard), his cancer-stricken and pill-popping wife Violet (Meryl Streep) is visited by the members of her family. Violet’s sister Mattie Fae (Margo Martindale) comes with her husband Charlie (Chris Cooper) and doormat of a son Little Charles (Benedict Cumberbatch); older daughter Barbara (Julia Roberts) comes with her estranged husband Bill (Ewan McGregor) and daughter Jean (Abigail Breslin); younger daughter Karen (Juliette Lewis) comes with her sleazy new fiancé Steve (Dermot Mulroney); a third daughter Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) still lives at home. Throughout the course of the next few days, bad blood will boil and the secrets of this very messed up family will be revealed.
Much of the plot of August: Osage County consists of a variety of very lengthy and heated conversations among the different family members, most of which involve the utterly insane and drug addicted matriarch Violet. In fact, it can probably be argued that film’s signature scene arrives around the midway point, in which the entire family are talking around the dinner table. It is here where the bad blood among these family members hits its peak and the film doesn’t really head as high for the remaining of the running time. However, the plot still has enough with men going through their midlife crisis and women having secret forbidden relationships that makes this family more than fit to appear on an episode of Jerry Springer.
While all of the cast gets their moment to shine, the film is built around the performances of Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, who are at each other’s throats for the entire film. While Roberts’ character of Barbara isn’t a particularly likeable character, she is still much more sympathetic than the very arrogant and insane violent. As seen in the promotional materials, there comes a point when Roberts and Street have an all-out physical fight with each other. The film shows a different side of Julia Roberts, which includes a very potty mouth. Even though he doesn’t have too much screen time, another standout performance in the film is Benedict Cumberbatch, who is playing a nervous dweeb, which is the complete opposite of the roles he had played previously.
Overall, while I would probably say that August: Osage County isn’t quite as crazy as the other films adapted from Tracy Letts’ plays (i.e. Bug and Killer Joe), I still thought it was an overall enjoyable look at one very messed up family.8 | LIKED IT