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Five Views: August: Osage County

January 31, 2014

August - Osage County PosterAugust: Osage County – An eOne Films Release

Release Date: January 10th, 2014 (Limited)

Rated 14A for coarse language and mature themes

Running time: 121 minutes

John Wells (dir.)

Tracy Letts (screenplay)

Based on the stage play by Tracy Letts

Gustavo Santaolalla (music)

Meryl Streep as Violet Weston

Julia Roberts as Barbara Weston

Chris Cooper as Charlie Aiken

Ewan McGregor as Bill Fordham

Margo Martindale as Mattie Fae Aiken

Sam Shepard as Beverly Weston

Dermot Mulroney as Steve Huberbrecht

Julianne Nicholson as Ivy Weston

Juliette Lewis as Karen Weston

Abigail Breslin as Jean Fordham

Benedict Cumberbatch as Little Charles Aiken

Misty Upham as Johnna Monevata

August - Osage County

©eOne Films.  All Rights Reserved.

Barbara (Julia Roberts), Violet (Meryl Streep) and Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) in August: Osage County.

Our reviews below:


August: Osage County Review By John Corrado

***1/2 (out of 4)

There is something cathartic about watching August: Osage County.  This saga of a dysfunctional family coming together and falling apart has arguments so heated and such extreme problems, that many real life disagreements will seem petty by comparison.  Although clearly not for everyone, this is a film where every insult feels like barbed wire and the dynamics are always fascinating to observe.

When their father Beverly Weston (Sam Shepard) disappears, his three grown up daughters go with their respective families to stay with their mother, the pill popping Violet (Meryl Streep).  This includes free spirited Ivy (Julianne Nicholson), the flighty Karen (Juliette Lewis) and her new boyfriend Steve (Dermot Mulroney), as well as the fierce Barbara (Julia Roberts), her estranged husband Bill (Ewan McGregor) and their teen daughter Jean (Abigail Breslin).  There is also Violet’s loudmouthed sister Mattie Fae (Margo Martindale) to contend with, her husband Charlie (Chris Cooper) and their sympathetic son Little Charles (Benedict Cumberbatch), who always seems to be on the verge of a panic attack.

Through all this, the kind maid Johnna (Misty Upham) is there to quietly observe the situation.  As the verbal intensity heats up throughout, including a stunning extended sequence at the dinner table that gives everyone a chance to shine, we are left to marvel at the stinging nature of the insults that are hurled between family members amidst this increasingly dysfunctional situation.  The ensemble cast all work perfectly in unison, and there is memorably acidic chemistry between Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, who both shine in performances worthy of their Oscar nominations.  It’s mesmerizing watching these iconic actresses literally tackle each other during the unforgettable end of that dinner table scene.

This isn’t a story of redemption, but watching the dynamics of this gloriously messed up family is perversely entertaining, an experience both fascinating and depressing.  Based on the acclaimed play by Tracy Letts and brought to the screen by director John Wells, August: Osage County is an incredibly entertaining and beautifully written dramedy, with expert acting from literally everyone involved.


August: Osage County Review by Erin V.

***1/2 (out of 4)

Based on a stage play, August: Osage County is a film that takes place in very few locations, but boasts a very strong cast working with excellent material.

Meryl Streep plays Violet, a woman addicted to pills, who’s husband goes missing, prompting the family to all come back to Osage County to support her.  Her three daughters are estranged from their mother and each other, and it is easy to see why the family doesn’t come together more often.  Barbara (Julia Roberts) is dealing with her own teenage daughter, as well as a divorce from her cheating husband, Karen (Juliette Lewis) is always worrying about finding a man and seems a little thick towards the deeper elements affecting her family, and Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) is just trying to help the best she can, but never seems to be appreciated by the others for it.  The cast is rounded out with Chris Cooper, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ewan McGregor, Margo Martindale, Sam Shepard, Dermot Mulroney, and Abigail Breslin.

As the family comes together over the week, family dinners turn into fights, secrets come out, and we can’t help but watch and be entertained by this dramedy of sorts.  The acting is excellent, and the film garnered Oscar noms for both Streep and Roberts.  While the film version of August: Osage County got quite mixed reviews, I enjoyed it both at TIFF (with a highly receptive and energetic audience) as well as more recently at the local theatre.


August: Osage County Review by Nicole

***1/2 (out of 4)

August: Osage County follows the crazy reunion of one messed up family.  Violet Weston (Meryl Streep) is one bitter mother.  She is addicted to prescription drugs, and has mouth cancer.  On top of that, her husband Beverly (Sam Shepard) has unexpectedly died.  At the funeral, the reunion is chaotic.  Barbara (Julia Roberts) is fighting with her estranged husband (Ewan McGregor), and teenage daughter (Abigail Breslin).  Karen is too dimwitted to recognize her fiancé (Dermot Mulroney) is creepy, and Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) has relationship problems of a different sort.  Cousin Charles (Benedict Cumberbatch) is socially awkward, but Aunt Mattie (Margo Martindale) loves to talk.  All this makes for some very interesting interactions.

August: Osage County has great characters.  They are, for the most part, unlikeable.  But that’s what makes them so fascinating.  All the chaos is quietly viewed by the soft spoken maid, Johnna (Misty Upham), who puts up with Violet’s racist comments about Aboriginal people.  Johnna, who is a very likeable character, sets one situation straight in a physical way.  One also feels for Ivy and Charles, who both have problems with relationships within the family.

The acting in August: Osage County is quite good.  The craziness of a family marked by addiction is believable and quite sad.  Ironically though, there is a bizarre humour within the chaos.  I am curious to see how August: Osage County plays out in the Best Actress and Supporting Actress Oscar categories.


August: Osage County Review by Maureen

***1/2 (out of 4)

Family is family, so when trouble hits, they band together even if it means the claws come out and things get nasty.  Adapted from Tracy Letts’ 2007 play, August: Osage County centres around Violet Weston (Meryl Streep) who struggles with painful mouth cancer and an addiction to a variety of pills.  Husband Beverly (Sam Shepard) copes by escaping into alcohol and books.  Knowing Violet isn’t coping well, he hires a Native American woman, Johnna (Misty Upham) to help with the cooking and cleaning.  Violet refers to her as “that Indian.”

When Beverly tragically disappears, Violet summons her three daughters, Barbara (Julia Roberts), Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) and Karen (Juliette Lewis) along with their families for moral support.  Violet’s sister Mattie (Margo Martindale) also arrives with her husband Charlie (Chris Cooper) and are later joined by their shy, awkward son “Little” Charles (Benedict Cumberbatch).

With the clan all gathered together for a memorial meal, it doesn’t take long before the gloves are off and nasty exchanges take place around the dinner table.  Even the in-laws are fair game.  Barbara’s estranged husband Bill (Ewan McGregor), their sullen 14-year-old daughter Jean (Abigail Breslin), and Karen’s sleazy fiancé Steve (Dermot Mulroney) are thrown into the dramatic mix.  Calmly and quietly observing it all is the cook, Johnna.

The dinner table scenes are dynamic and explosive.  Violet’s mouth knows no bounds.  Much of it is the pills talking, but it’s clear there is a lot of rage accumulated over the years, particularly between Barb and Violet.  Both Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts are brilliant in their roles.  This is very much a character driven movie and is clearly well suited to a stage play.  August: Osage County works as a film thanks to the strong cast all around.  Some of the most touching scenes are the ones between the sisters, particularly Ivy who has her own dilemma to deal with.

At nearly two hours, the movie just seems to fly by as quickly as the insults are hurled.  This is an intense yet entertaining movie.  Most of the characters aren’t particularly likeable, yet believable and very watchable.  At every turn, you just keep waiting for things to get worse for these folks, and sure enough they do.  And we can’t stop watching them free fall.  August: Osage County is mesmerizing.  Check this one out for the incredible performances.


August: Osage County Review by Tony

***1/2 (out of 4)

The screenplay for August: Osage County is by Tracy Letts based on his stage play, with an all-new cast led by Meryl Streep as Vi Weston. The film opens with her poet husband Bev (Sam Shepard) hiring Johnna (Misty Upham), a young native woman, as a housekeeper and personal care worker for Vi, an incredibly mean alcoholic suffering from oral cancer and addicted to nicotine, numerous opiates and other medications.

When Bev disappears and is later found dead, the funeral brings the extended family to the rural Oklahoma home with explosive results. The eldest daughter Barb (Julia Roberts) arrives from Colorado with her estranged husband Bill (Ewan McGregor) and 14 year old daughter Jean (Abigail Breslin). Her modest unmarried sister Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) has remained in the area all along. The not-too-bright youngest sister Karen (Juliette Lewis) drives in from Florida in the Ferrari of her older thrice-divorced fiancé Steve (Dermot Mulroney), the source of whose wealth is questionable. Vi’s younger sister Mattie Fae (Margo Martindale) is there with her husband Charlie (Chris Cooper), later joined by their awkward son “Little” Charles (Benedict Cumberbatch).

Brief sweet moments are overshadowed by bitter conflicts among the characters, reaching a climax at the post-funeral dinner table. As long-running resentments and family secrets are revealed, characters leave the scene until only Vi and Johnna are left. Meryl Streep is brilliant as expected, with Julia Roberts giving as good as she gets in an uncharacteristically mean role, and the rest of the cast is excellent in their sharply-written parts.

The second feature directed by long-time TV producer/director John Wells, August: Osage County works well as a film despite its densely-written stage dialog, taking full advantage of the oppressively hot domestic scenes contrasted with the wide open spaces of the Oklahoma plains. The musical score from the eclectic Argentinian-born Gustavo Santaolalla combined with a good selection of Country and other tunes adds to the atmosphere perfectly.


Consensus: The entire cast gets a chance to shine in August: Osage County, a brilliantly written adaptation of the play by Tracy Letts, carried by excellent acting from Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts who received Oscar nominations for their roles.  ***1/2 (Out of 4)

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