Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Review: August: Osage County

                  'August: Osage County': A Tremendously Acted Yet Somewhat Problematic Film
                    One would think that a film that stars such actresses as Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, as well as a slew of other actors that include Ewan McGregor, Juliette Lewis, Chris Cooper, Abigail Breslin, and Benedict Cumberbatch would be a rather slam dunk. But while the actors excel, the film is anything but a slam dunk.

                  August: Osage County is about a dysfunctional family led by the cancer-stricken matriarch Violet Weston (Meryl Streep) whose husband Beverly (Sam Shepard) just committed suicide. Violet's family then gathers at her house for the funeral; her daughters Barbara (Julia Roberts), Barbara's separated husband and daughter Bill and Jean (Ewan McGregor and Abigail Breslin), Ivy (Julianne Nicholson), and Karen (Juliette Lewis), Violet's sister Mattie Fae (Margo Martindale) and her husband and child Charles and Little Charles (Chris Cooper and Benedict Cumberbatch). Once they gather together, chaos then ensues as secrets become revealed and tensions run high.

                 What I Liked About It:
               I'll start off by saying that I did love the acting. Meryl Streep once again delivers a strong performance as Violet, the pill-popping, chain-smoking, foul-mouthed, cancer stricken matriarch. Her performance was a bit theatrical, but the film is based on a play so I guess it makes sense. Julia Roberts is quite good as Barbara, who is almost like a clone of her mother. Margo Martindale is astounding as Mattie Fae, Violet's sister who has a lack of a filter and either has you chuckling or makes you want to slap her. But some of the other standouts in the ensemble cast I would say are Chris Cooper, who plays Mattie Fae's rather laid back husband Charles and is one of the film's more endearing characters, Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays "Little" Charles, and plays a character that is a complete 180 from his earlier role in 12 Years A Slave, and Julianne Nicholson, who gives a rather low key and subtle performance as Ivy.

                Another thing that I liked was how the film focuses on all the actors and how they interact with each other. Even though Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts are technically the leads, they are hardly the leads as this is everybody's movie and I liked that part a lot about this movie.

              What I Didn't Like About It:
             While I loved the acting in the film, I would still say I had some problems with the film. One is that the story is a bit clichéd, as it deals with a dysfunctional family with a bunch of secrets that start to get revealed. Another is how half of the characters are so unlikable and that almost ruined the film for me. The actors did a good job at portraying them, but this flaw has more to do with the characters they are portraying than the actors themselves.

             Overall, August: Osage County is a solid yet flawed film about family dysfunction that features tremendous performances from the cast. If you are a fan of anyone from the cast, Streep and Roberts especially, I would say give it a watch. But if not, then I would say give it a watch. I didn't feel like I wasted time watching it, yet I wouldn't say it is a tremendous film.

Rating: 3/5