Overview: After a tragedy, a dreadfully dysfunctional family packs into one stuffy Oklahoma home to deal with loss and try to move forward. 2013; Rated R; 130 minutes.
Meryl Streep: I can’t ignore that this has been billed primarily as Meryl Streep’s movie. Justifiably. Streep has a rock-solid critical following, and she deserves it. She has plenty to work with as Violet, the brutally honest matriarch, who suffers from mouth cancer and a debilitating addiction to pills. Violet is a classic tragedy. Her greatest assets —honesty, independence, and unfaltering strength — are the traits that could lead to her downfall. Streep is expectedly great, flinging biting insults at every family member, yet somehow managing to keep our sympathy.
But It’s Not ALL About Meryl: Streep is masterly, but August: Osage County isn’t just a platform for her acting. Julia Robertsis as much the star of this story. Roberts’ emotionally charged portrayal of Barbara, is striking. Barbara is a hardened product of her mother’s influence. She is passionate, demanding, and sharp. Though she’s the most like her mother of any of the children, she does her best not to be. While there isn’t enough screen time for everyone to shine to the degree of Streep and Roberts, the ensemble is strong. Standouts include Chris Cooper’s nuanced, quiet performance as Charles, Violet’s brother-in-law, and Margo Martindalea’s Mattie Fae, Charles’ wife and Violet’s sister, who keeps her character sweet despite sharing her sister’s tendency toward harsh honesty.
Too Much of a Good Thing?: August: Osage County is intense. Based on a play of the same name, this adaptation still feels a lot like a play. It’s heavy on dialogue, the scenes are long, and every word is tinged with drama. It’s all so heavy that it can feel uncomfortably packed. There’s so much acting, so much screaming and shouting, that it gets exhausting.
Final Thoughts: Despite feeling too heavy and slightly overwhelming, August: Osage County is full of fine acting and sharp storytelling. If the setting feels tight, it’s because the actors fill the space so well. It’s a heavy film with few spots of light and no chance of a happy ending, but it’s certainly worth seeing.