Film review: An okay job from the Okies from Muskogee

February 16th, 2014

This article is more than 9 years old.

August: Osage County, the screen adaptation of a 2008 Pulitzer Prize-winning play by American playwright Tracy Lett, is a fierce and sporadically moving portrait of domestic dysfunction and struggle, pitched somewhere between the tragic and the tragicomic, tackling themes that include disease, neglect, abuse, taboos and, to a much lesser degree, the prospect of healing.

The cinematography is lush and unpretentious, but the film is marred by too many exceedingly wordy and preposterous speeches – plus the feeling that you’re watching the pride of Hollywood a little bit puzzled at finding themselves gathered in Oklahoma to act out a famous play.

Ewan McGregor’s character never really feels like he is married to Julia Robert’s – but then of course that bond is vexed, to say the least, and meant to look it. Similarly, what Cumberbatch achieves is not quite the aimed-for ‘black sheep of the family’ – though a courteous reviewer would attribute that to the fact that, unbeknownst to the character, there’s something fishy about his parentage.

Cooper, playing his father, is one of the few thespian pillars on which this behemoth rests, the other being Streep who puts in a performance so outrageous that it makes Leonardo DiCaprio’s recent  antics in The Wolf of Wall Street look tame in comparison. Give her the Oscar (not Roberts) and get on with it.

The story is set in an Oklahoma farmhouse where a dozen family members are gathered for a funeral. Streep’s pill-popping, cancer-suffering, widowed matriarch is so badly affected by her loss that she viciously proceeds to apportion out her pain to every one of her already troubled kin.

“Life is very long,” is the film’s first line, and though the duration of life is the very least of these characters’ problems, the austere quote feels appropriate.
“Thank God, we can’t tell the future – we’d never get out of bed,” Roberts muses later when the traumas reach a breaking point.

This film is long, yes, but it doesn’t really feel it. And you can never quite predict what’ll happen, so if you like your dramas sobering and bracing, get out of bed for this one.

August: Osage County (7)

Dir: John Wells; US drama, 2014, 121 mins;
Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Julianne Nicholson, Ewan McGregor
Premiered February 6
Playing Nationwide


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