August: Osage County
Have you ever met someone where they claim their family is a hundred percent normal? I certainly haven’t, and I can’t say that my family is perfect. Sure, as I kid, I had thoughts about friends or just other kids that has better families then mine, simply because I was embarrassed with certain elements about mine. Truth to be told, I’m not only tolerant about those two or three quirks my parents, grandparents, brother, or any relative has, but I’m actually glad I grew up with these people. To have total perfection is to no humanity. Everyone has a trait that someone else is going to be annoyed by.
The only way a family is going to move forward is if they work together. Now the sadder truth is that there are a lot of families that don’t get along or don’t see each other. Maybe they grew up in a negative environment or maybe that there was one person who made a bad choice that ruined everything. Problems will remain a problem until someone steps in to fix things, but if someone is very content with who they are, then is there a problem at all? Family dysfunction is examined in the latest stage to screen adaptation, August: Osage County.
The title of this story refers to the location and time; a hot August in the middle of rural Osage, Oklahoma. In an old, dusty antique of a farmhouse lives an alcoholic poet Beverly Weston (played by Sam Shepard) and his strong-willed wife Violet (played by Meryl Streep). Like the farm, both folks suffer from little respect from their family and are trapped in a blender of prescription drugs and illness. Beverly hires a Native American Johanna to be a live in cook and care giver fro Violet, who had recently been diagnosed with mouth cancer.
When Beverly leaves, Violet’s sister Mattie (played by Margo Martindale) and her husband Charles (played by Chris Cooper) come to support. Mattie rarely sees her sister as most of the family has left the farm for better lives. Violets youngest daughter Ivy (played by Julianne Nicholson) is the only one who lives locally. The middle daughter Karen (played by Juliette Lewis) is in Florida with her current boyfriend, a sleazy businessman Steve (played by Dermot Mulroney). Violet’s eldest daughter, the one whose just as strong willed as her mother is Barbara (played by Julia Roberts) who lives in Colorado. She had recently separated from her husband Bill (played by Ewan McGregor), but they try to keep things together for her daughter Jean (played by Abigail Breslin). Once they all receive news that Beverly had committed suicide, the family arrives to try and settle their differences.
So, as you can read, August: Osage County is a rather large acting showcase. There has been a lot of phrase for Meryl Streep and Julia Robert. I agree as both women share similar personalities, but are too proud for their own good. The movie tries to give each character their own little dilemma and cover a variety of topics (drugs, relationships, incest, etc.) so the movie has a lot going for it.
The relationships between the family works as you really can understand and get a since that these people grew up in a harsh life and want to change things, but also understand that strong willed people are the hardest to change. So if the acting and relationship arcs are great, what’s wrong with it? I think that while it’s a good story, there’s nothing in August: Osage County that gives it a reason for a cinematic adaptation. I can clearly see that it was a theater piece first, as the acting seems to be the focus. What suffers is simply the fact that the great acting may not be enough of a draw for a story about family dysfunction that’s been told before.
I’ll give this three and a half dusty farmhouses out of five. August: Osage County is a movie only for those that are looking for good acting. I’d say that major theater fans may enjoy this. But otherwise, I think that better movies about family dysfunction are out there.