News

REVIEW: ‘August’ brings bigs stars to the family table

REVIEW: ‘August’ brings bigs stars to the family table

This image released by The Weinstein Company shows, from left, Meryl Streep, Julianne Nicholson and Juliette Lewis in a scene from "August: Osage County." Photo: Associated Press/The Weinstein Company/Claire Folger

Genre: Drama | Run Time: 121 min | Rated: R
Director: John Wells | Starring: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Dermot Mulroney
Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor, Margo Martindale, Sam Shepart, Juliette Lewis

By: George Wolf

So, how was your family get-together over the Holidays?

If secrets and dinner plates weren’t tossed about like a salad dressed with obscenities, you’ve got nothing on the Westons, the dysfunctional brood at the heart of August: Osage County.

Screenwriter Tracy Letts adapts his own Pulitzer Prize-winning play, and the sublime wordplay in his dark, rich comedy is brought to life via an exceptional ensemble cast. Only tentative direction from John Wells holds the film back from its full potential.

Meryl Streep rules the roost as family matriarch Violet Weston, who..ahem…”welcomes” her children, siblings and assorted other team members back home after a family crisis.

There isn’t much time spent on niceties before the barbs start flying. Old wounds are exposed, and new secrets are uncovered as the family struggles to deal with the effect their past has on their present.

At the heart of the conflict is Barbara, the oldest Weston daughter, fully realized by Julia Roberts in, hands down, the performance of her career.

Barbara’s contempt for her mother is on hilariously full display, while bubbling underneath is the fear of becoming her mother, a fear she tries to hide through angry outbursts. Stealing a movie from Meryl Streep is no easy feat, but Roberts does it.

In fact, the film is wall to wall with fine performers, including Chris Cooper, Sam Shepard, Juliette Lewis, Ewan McGregor, and Margo Martindale (who shows a fantastic chemistry with Streep, giving their scenes together an added air of mischief).

The problem is, director John Wells seems a bit intimidated by who, and what, he’s working with. The characters are too often on their own island, as when a soap opera cuts from a close up of one deep sigh to a completely different storyline.

These characters are under one roof for much of the movie, yet we don’t feel the cohesiveness of any shared connections, just a series of histrionics often left swinging in the venomous breeze.

It’s not the material. Letts also wrote Bug and Killer Joe, both adapted into brilliant movies by the skills of legendary director William Friedkin. Wells, a veteran TV director, doesn’t provide the nuance needed to make a successful cinematic leap.

August: Osage County boasts all the ingredients, and is certainly entertaining, but ultimately feels like a missed opportunity for something special.

Verdict 3 Stars

Read more movie reviews at MaddWolf.com.

Recent Headlines

in Local

Rail Interest Group Seeks to Save Amtrak Dollars

Fresh
amtrak

Governor proposes big cut in state subsidy

in Local

Durbin Is Upset Human Trafficking Bill Is Stalled

Fresh
durbin

Abortion-related diversion could be at work

in Local

Springfield City Council Continues Food Truck Debate

3-10-15 Springfield City Council

The Springfield City Council will continue discussions on whether or not to place more regulations on food trucks, and will do so with Ward Six Alderman Cory Jobe's amendment reducing how far away a truck must be from a brick-and-mortar restaurant down to 500 feet.

in Local

Springfield Unemployment Continues Decline

jobs

The Illinois Department of Employment Security says unemployment continues to decline in Springfield and Sangamon County.