August: Osage County Might Break Your Heart
Sometimes when you have star-studded ensemble casts, a whole bunch of powerful performances can overstep each other and muddle the story. Thanks to director John Wells, ‘August: Osage County’ won’t suffer the same fate. Adapted from the play written by Tracy Letts, Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts lead this story of the dysfunctional Weston family.
The suicide of Beverly Weston (Sam Shepard) brings his three daughters, his sister-in-law, and their respective families back home to Osage County, Oklahoma. Beverly, the former poet and admitted alcohol, left behind his wife Violet (Meryl Streep) who has become addicted to the pain medication that eases her suffering from mouth cancer. The other problem with Violet’s mouth is that it has no filter; in her drugged-up stupor, she perpetually patronizes, condescends, and guilt-trips her loved ones. The Weston daughters – played by Julia Roberts, Juliette Lewis, and Julianne Nicholson – did not escape family drama when they left the nest, and their own issues follow them back home, only to be amplified by the belligerent scrutiny of their mother.
Ivy Weston (Julianne Nicholson) is the most subdued of the daughters and was the only one to stay close to home and keep watch over her aging parents. Karen Weston (Juliette Lewis) is a self-absorbed, naïve woman who is never with one man for long, but believes that her new fiancé (Dermot Mulroney) is the perfect match. Barbara Weston (Julia Roberts) is the only sister who proves to be an equal match for her spitfire mother, but through her struggles with her family – including her pot-smoking, rebellious daughter (Abigail Breslin) and her unfaithful, separated husband (Ewan McGregor) – she realizes that her sparring with her mother might be due to their similarities moreso than their differences.
The dysfunction continues with Violet’s sister Mattie Fae Aiken (Margo Martindale) and her husband Charles Aiken (Chris Cooper). They seem like the happiest bunch of the lot, until we meet their son Little Charles Aiken (Benedict Cumberbatch), an uncoordinated, socially inept man, who Mattie Fae constantly berates for what she feels in incompetence.
All of the family’s past and present conflicts culminate into an all-out war of words in the film’s climax, where each cast member gets at least one freak out moment to show off their stellar acting chops. Julia Roberts’ Golden Globe nomination is well-deserved in what people are calling her best performance yet. The Westons tale of familial cruelty is gripping and emotional but layered with dark humour. Be prepared to leave the theatre with a heavy heart.
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