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.
An elderly Margaret Thatcher talks to the imagined presence of her recently deceased husband as she struggles to come to terms with his death while scenes from her past life, from girlhood to British prime minister, intervene.
Richard E. Grant
Violet Weston (Meryl Streep) has cancer and a propensity for pills and alcohol. She's a difficult woman to deal with and her husband has finally had enough. Violet's family gathers including middle daughter Ivy, youngest daughter Karen (with her new fiancé), eldest daughter Barbara (with her separated husband and teenage daughter), and her sister Mattie Fae (with her husband and son in tow). A family tragedy causes tensions to run high and secrets to come out. The Weston women will be forced to examine themselves and their lives whether they want to or not. Welcome to Osage County, Oklahoma in the sweltering heat of August.Written by
The sheriff's car bears an Oklahoma County license plate. Oklahoma County is about 2 1/2 hours away from Osage County. See more »
Life is very long. T.S. Elliot. Not the first person to say it, certainly not the first person to think it, but he's given credit for it because he bothered to write it down.
Now if you say it, you have to say his name after it. "Life is very long." T.S. Elliot. Absolutely goddamn right.
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Come to Laugh, Come to Cry, Come to Care, but not necessarily to Terms ...
"August: Osage County" centers on a dysfunctional family, rooted in the plains of Oklahoma, as dry and bare as the heart of its remaining matriarch who has nothing but 'belittling comments' to distribute as wry marks of affections, giving a disturbingly ironic significance to the oral cancer she suffers from pain-in-the-mouth, pain-in-the-ass. We understand that Violet, Meryl Streep in another (what-did-you-expect) virtuoso performance, let bitterness grow in the heart of her three daughters, each one proving that there can be more than one worst-case scenario.
By the way, it's interesting that many dysfunctional families feature daughters. I remember Woody Allen's dramatic masterpiece "Interiors" was about three sisters struggling to give their life a meaning after the deterioration of their parents' marriage and their mother's descent into madness. Again, you had the practical and rational sister, the easy-going one, and the tormented middle-child. I think there is some Oedipal meaning to it, while brothers, protective toward their mother tend to stand together, sisters are closer to the father, and are more liable to be rivals either to their mother or for their father, which is conflict-wise, more promising.
The oldest daughter is Julia Roberts as Barb, the one who inherited her mother's strong-willed genes, a strength that ultimately lead her husband to leave her for a younger woman, and naturally, her daughter Jean (Abigail Breslin) grew as a disturbed pseudo-rebellious teenager. There's no excuse for her husband's behavior, but Ewan McGregor strikes as the kind of decent guy who can only be 'accidentally' bad, and it's as if Barb made such situation inevitable, as if there was an innate incapability to express love in her heart.
The other sisters are Karen (Juliette Lewis), the youngest and most deluded one, who embraced life with an ersatz of optimism to better cancel out her crappy past and came to the house with a sleazy Florida businessman (Dermot Mulroney) the last of a string of boyfriends, and I want to add : so far. And there is Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) who stayed close to home and as a reward, suffers from the old-maid syndrome where any attempt to express her personality is repressed by her mother. No rewards to her good intentions except low self-esteem and bad luck (for reasons I won't spoil) that lead her heart to her first cousin (Benedict Cumberbatch).
And in this drama whose witty and punchy dialogs are fueled by alcohol and unhealthy rainbows of pills, pain-killers and anti-depressants, each scene manages to be both entertaining and true to life, painting the live portrait of a family collapse, whose warning signs were the slow disintegration of its founding marriage. Basically "August Osage County" is to Family what "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" is to couple, and the film is driven by fantastic performances, all carrying their level of pathos with talent and authenticity mostly from women, but men have their words to say.
Chris Cooper is the husband of Violet's sister Mattie Fae (Margo Martindale), a lighter version of the infamous Hillary Swank's redneck mother in "Million Dollar Baby", lacking compassion and empathy toward her only son. Benedict Cumberbatch who'd make any heart melt as the ill-regarded "Little Charles". And if poor Charles couldn't stand up for his beliefs, at least, he'll inspire one of the most emotionally satisfying moments in the movie, and established men as the Yin to the film's dysfunctional Yang. Ironically, the only positive female figure is Johnna (Misty Upham), the Native maid hired by Violet's husband, Beverly (Sam Shepard) a once-renowned poet, a decent guy too.
With these characters brought all together after Beverly's disappearance, you have all the ingredients assembled for these great family brawls, with their share of secrets, revelations and twisted plot twists, and you have the local Oklahoman touch, making the film a mix between "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (it was adapted from a play by Tracy Letts) and "About Schmidt". It's greatly written, full of authentic moments such as the dinner scene, Cooper's graces and many mother-and-daughters truth-telling moments it's an ensemble movie and I guess this is the role Julia Roberts should have won an Oscar for, not Erin 'gimme-a-break' Brockovich.
And while I saw the film, I thought I already had the title of my review in mind, something like "one's end inspiring many new beginnings", something about the necessity of reuniting to finally come to terms with the past and take a new start. Yet, the film ends quite abruptly, leaving too many interrogation marks. I don't expect a happy ending again, but all the movies I mentioned had somewhat of a resolution, a way for us to catch our breath and fill our hearts with hope. I know "hope" is a big word but it's precisely because the movie didn't leave much for optimism in the beginning than I kept having in mind this "it can't be worse" feeling.
I understand it was meant to be a realistic drama and in reality, many problems are left unresolved, if only because most people chose to escape or hide instead of facing their responsibilities, but maybe the reunion was a way to put an end to it, maybe there had been enough secrets in this family and it was time not just to let them out, but to make it worth it. I will never see these characters again, so I wish we had a few glimpses of what would happen to them after.
Besides, Tracy Letts meant the film as a tribute to his background, to show that Midwest isn't just populated by Rubes or Rednecks, like in the movies, I'm not sure the ending would reconcile a perplexed audience with the Midwest. I know it's not a requirement for a great film, but after all the pain, and noises and stress, we went through, even a temporary resolution would've been enough. Some characters' arcs were meant to be closed even temporarily
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