Wednesday, January 29, 2014

August: Osage County - Movie Review

Starring Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Julianne Nicholson, Juliette Lewis, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Margo Martindale, Dermot Mulroney, Sam Shepard and Misty Upham.
Directed by John Wells.


You can tell this comedy/drama came from a stage play, and while some of its scenes are expanded out, most of it takes place inside the house, the deep house where three sisters grew up under a kind but alcoholic father Bev Weston (Sam Shepard) and a monstrous pill-popping mother Violet (Meryl Streep).

When Daddy goes missing, the three daughters - Barbara, Ivy, Karen - come home to offer support and dread the fights they know will happen.  Barbara (Julia Roberts) comes with her husband (Ewan McGregor) and teenage daughter (Abigail Breslin), though they are separated due to his recent infidelity.  Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) is the middle child who's never found anyone but plans to announce her new beau soon. Karen (Juliette Lewis) is the flighty youngest who's had numerous boyfriends/fiances but thinks she's found the right one (Dermot Mulroney), even though for him, she'd be Wife #4.

Violet's sister (Margo Martindale) comes with her husband (Chris Cooper) and son (Benedict Cumberbatch) as well, and meanwhile there's a Cheyenne housekeeper (Misty Upham) Bev hired right before he disappeared. Got our cast of characters straight?

Once everyone makes their way in and assemble, there's about a half-hour scene at the dinner table that's filled with verbal jousting and prodding, and years of resentment start to boil to the surface. Violet is an Oxycontin Joan Crawford, and she snipes sometimes just to see what the reaction will be.

There were times Streep was a little too hammy for me, but more often there are scenes where she just commands the screen, and yet she's a generous co-star. Every actor gets to have their moment, and most impressive to me was Julia Roberts. This is my favorite performance of hers to date. You can see all the anger and resentment from her childhood manifest in the vein popping on her forehead, and when she unleashes, there is genuine pain lashing out.

Another standout for me was Nicholson. She's mainly known for her TV work (Ally McBeal, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Boardwalk Empire) and here she's the wallflower/good-girl who's had enough of everyone taking her for granted. I would have been happy if she was a Best Supporting Actress nominee next to Roberts. (She'll also be on Sundance Channel's upcoming Red Road series with Jason Momoa.)

Maybe in the play Ivy was the oldest sister. There's a line in there where Barbara says Ivy is almost 50, and Nicholson's clearly younger than Roberts, so it pulled me out a bit. If they'd just changed the line to "over 40" it would've still been funny and I wouldn't be dedicating a pragraph to it.

Chris Cooper gets a great monologue in there. Cumberbatch shows off what a chameleon actor he can be. Martindale, Mulroney, Breslin, Lewis were all good. McGregor didn't quite work for me. He's just never been able to nail down an American accent and it's distracting.

No comments: