“He knew I knew, but we never talked about it,” says Violet Weston (Meryl Streep) about husband Beverly (Sam Shepard) and about one of the family secrets revealed in this dark, rich, intergenerational domestic drama. The action and revelations take place in the few days family members gather for Beverly’s funeral.
Can tough-minded daughter Barbara (Julia Roberts) tame her out-of-control mother Violet? How did Beverly die? What other secrets are disclosed? Will you be captured by this excellent film? I was.
Meryl Streep is brilliant as drug-addled Violet and Julia Roberts, excellent as take-no-prisoners daughter Barbara. They are “Osage County’s” principal characters – antagonists, really. And they are compelling in their high-energy roles. “Nobody slips anything by me,” says Violet. “I know what I know.” Nor does she hold back revealing everything, no matter how brutal. “Truth-telling,” she calls it. “My mother was a mean and nasty old lady,” Vi says. “I suppose that’s where I get it.” Equally strong-willed is daughter Barbara, separated from husband Bill, played by Ewan McGregor. “You’re passionate,” he tells her, “but you’re hard. You’re a pain in the ass.” “You don’t get it,” Barbara says. “I’m running things now. Everyone – do what I say.”
Others in the excellent cast include Chris Cooper as plain-talking Uncle Charles and Margo Martindale, a stand-out as his wife Mattie Fae. Benedict Cumberbatch is Little Charlie, their foundering son. Juliette Lewis and Julianne Nicholson are Karen and Ivy, Barbara’s unhappy younger sisters. Dermot Mulroney is three-times married Steve, engaged to Karen. Abigail Breslin plays Barbara and Bill’s rebellious daughter Jean. Sam Shepard has a cameo as Beverly. Misty Upham is Native American housekeeper Johnna.
“August: Osage County” is harrowing but rich family drama, a lesson in Oscar-worthy acting, and an old-fashioned (in the good sense) character- and dialog-driven story. John Wells directed Tracy Letts’ script, which she adapted from his Tony-Award winning play. Lots of dramatic pleasures here watching the Weston family – or, as Ivy says, “our random collection of cells” – deal with death and each other. Close to melodrama, “August: Osage County” doesn’t go there, thanks to smart direction and strong acting. English majors will want to listen for references to T.S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men.”
Rated R for language, sexual references and drugs, the film runs 121 minutes. No laughs, this is serious adult fare.
“August: Osage County,”
What’s hidden is revealed –
Deceit, betrayal, greed –
Should they be left concealed?