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Film Title

August: Osage County

Director

John Wells

Starring

  • Meryl Streep as Violet Weston
  • Julia Roberts as Barbara Weston-Fordham
  • Ewan McGregor as Bill Fordham
  • Juliette Lewis as Karen Weston
  • Julianne Nicholson as Ivy Weston
  • Chris Cooper as Charles Aiken
  • Abigail Breslin as Jean Fordham
  • Benedict Cumberbatch as ‘Little’ Charles Aiken
  • Margo Martindale as Mattie Fae Aiken
  • Dermot Mulroney as Steve Huberbrecht
  • Sam Shepard as Beverly Weston
  • Misty Upham as Johnna

A dark and intense examination of a family falling apart and suffering burdens after reuniting for a funeral, August: Osage County may not be the most comfortable film to watch. But with a talented ensemble cast and simmering tensions that eventually boil over, it sure makes for eventful and dramatic viewing.

In sweltering Oklahoma, Beverly Weston was once a respected poet whose work has declined in recent years and send him into consuming alcohol to drown his sorrows. Matter aren’t helped by his strong-willed and verbally abusive wife Violet, who is suffering from mouth cancer but is addicted to pills. August Osage County posterAlthough he hires a young Native American caregiver called Johnna to help, the demands and abuse aimed at him by his wife proves too much. One day, Beverly has had enough of the torment and disappears. Days later, he is found drowned after taking his boat out on the lake. His extended family who have drifted apart reunite for his funeral. The rest of the family consists of Violet and Beverly’s daughters: wounded favourite Barbara, meek middle child Ivy and dippy youngest Karen.Barbara’s estranged husband Bill, their rebellious teenage daughter Jean, Violet’s sister Mattie Fae, her husband Charles, their shy son known as ‘Little’ Charles and Karen’s latest fiance Steve are also in attendance. As the family attempt to cope with their grief, various tensions and secrets soon take over and anger, resentment and bitterness threaten to destroy what is left of the already troubled and dysfunctional extended family.

As I previously mentioned, August Osage County isn’t the easiest film to sit through. With its flawed characters and feuds a plenty, this is not a bunch of characters who have lived a sunny existence. But then again, they’re not supposed to be the easiest characters to relate to and the under the skilled direction of John Wells, the film shows how they are all not as perfect as some of them make out. Dramatics are the order of the day as arguments and truths engulf the family, the verbal sparring is very well done and drips with venom as everyone begins to reach breaking point. Some scenes do lapse into melodrama occasionally and restraint isn’t exactly the films strong suit. The film may never truly escape its theatrical origins but in turn the confined setting of the Weston house gives the movie a claustrophobic and stifling atmosphere of intensity as the heat continues to rise and lies begin to spill out. The roving camerawork captures the heated emotions up close and personal and add to the themes of familial ties beginning to break and the difficult reasons why.

The impressive ensemble cast is what gives August: Osage County its intense impact. Meryl Streep is a force of nature as the acid spitting Violet, whose truth-telling begins to drive the fractured family apart. She impressively captures her strong-willed nature, but also a mean streak that often rears its ugly head in this time of pain. Yet, we do get to see the damaged side to Violet that occasionally shines through thanks to the splendid work of the talented Meryl Streep. August Osage County Violet and BarbaraJulia Roberts is equally impressive as her eldest daughter Barbara, who burns with anger towards her mother and the burdens placed on her. This is easily some of her best work as she imbues Barbara with a rage and ferocity rarely seen by Roberts before now. Ewan McGregor does his best in the role of Barbara’s estranged husband Bill, yet I don’t think he’s given enough to do to make him a memorable character in this escalating family saga. Juliette Lewis is flighty and gullible as Karen, whilst Julianne Nicholson offers a moving performance as the put upon Ivy. Chris Cooper embodies the moral centre of the dysfunctional family Charles, who sees exactly where the arguments and disagreements are going to lead. Margo Martindale is utilised well as Violet’s sister, who berates her timid son and seems to have got the same mean streak as her sister. Abigail Breslin is quietly sullen and alienated as Barbara’s teenage daughter Jean. Benedict Cumberbatch is sympathetic and vulnerable as Little Charles, who is secretly in a relationship with his cousin Ivy and constantly made to feel inadequate by his mother. Filling out the other roles effectively are Dermot Mulroney, who gives a sleazy edge to his character, Sam Shepard as the worn out Beverly whose death brought the family together and Misty Upham as the quiet caregiver to Violet.

It may be dark and pessimistic, but with the talented cast on electrifying form and the dysfunction cranked up to eleven, August: Osage County is nothing short of eventful in the dramatic stakes.

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