About these ads

Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

August: Osage County (2013)


A family reunion at Orange County probably would have cooled everyone off just a tad bit.

After her dear hubby, Beverly (Sam Shepard), turns up dead at the bottom of a lake, Violet Weston (Meryl Streep) is left alone, confused, upset and pissed-off at just why the hell the man she’s been married to for half of her damn life would leave her in such a horrific, unexpected way. And since the body has been found and claimed, that can only mean one thing: Funeral arrangements! Actually, better yet, that also means another thing: Family reunion! Violet’s three daughters come up for the funeral and, presumably, haven’t seen one another for quite some time, either due to the fact that they don’t like one another, or got too much already going on in their respective lives that they don’t really have much time to chat-it-up every once and awhile. The oldest, Barbara (Julie Roberts), is going through her own crisis of sorts with her failing marriage to college professor Bill Fordham (Ewan McGregor), and the fact that she can’t seem to connect with her 14-year-old daughter (Abigail Breslin) any longer; Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) is the middle-child and practically the only one who decided to stay back and watch over mom, dad and the house, but also has a bit of a crisis on her own that just so happens to be more controversial than anything else going on here; and the baby of three girls, Karen (Juliette Lewis), is a bit of a gold digger that’s had plenty of flings in the past, but is now with a man (Dermot Mulroney) who is ten years older than her and may not be a perfect fit. There’s also plenty more where that came from, so just enjoy the show! Or play, whatever you want to call it!

Not since the release of The Phantom Menace has Ewan wanted to run and hide himself in a corner so much more.

Not since the release of The Phantom Menace has Ewan wanted to run and hide himself in a corner so badly.

Though I’ve never seen the play, from what I hear, it’s a stunning piece-of-work that yes, is long, but yes, is also worth seeing. And after being a witness to its film-adaptation, I think I might just have to. Which is very strange considering that this was actually adapted from the man who created the original play himself, Tracy Letts, and in case you couldn’t tell with Letts, the guy definitely has an ear for dialogue. Especially those of some pretty messed-up, dysfunctional people that you may not always like, but you can always watch, even in their most questionable moments.

That’s why after seeing two other film-adaptations of his plays (Bug and Killer Joe) I feel like the standard has been set for what a stage-to-film-adaptation can be, let alone one those of Letts’ own creation. Which is why when I saw the huge ensemble director John Wells put together here, I felt like I just could not miss out on this, not even for the world. And for the most part, I wasn’t wrong, because while plenty in this flick doesn’t necessarily work to the best of its ability, the cast consistently puts in great work, which is definitely something to commend, especially considering that they’re given dialogue to work with that is in and of itself a bit too taut and awkward for their own good.

Actually, the same could be said about the direction from Wells also, as this feels more like a forced-job than anything else. See, the complaints that I heard with both Killer Joe and Bug (moreso Joe, than Bug), was that too much of it felt “stagey”. Which is, in essence, exactly what it’s supposed to be, but not done so in a way that makes it feel like you’ve shelled-out money to just see a bunch of people do the same things that you could have seen them do on a big, ole’ stage. It’s quite tricky for a director to maneuver an adaptation around so much so that you don’t have too many scenes where a person will walk into a room, talk about god knows what for ten minutes, go into another room, talk about god knows what for ten more minutes, and then continue to do so until another person decides to take the throne, go into a room, and talk about god knows what for ten minutes. It all just gets to the point of where it’s been so rinsed-out and recycled, that you feel as if you’re on “dialogue-overload”, but not in the fun way you’d hear with a Tarantino, or Scorsese flick. Rather, you’re just hearing a bunch of people rant, rave on and ramble on about crap you don’t really care for, but sort of have to because it’s right in front of your face, and will continue to be so for the next hour or two, and you can’t do a single thing about it.

Hence why that feeling of being crammed-into a place you don’t really want to be at, with a bunch of people you don’t really care for, should have worked absolute wonders for this movie. However, Wells seems like he’s bit too much of a polished film-maker where everything is all nice, clean, frothy and pretty to look-at. Which may be fine for a movie about a family who gets along, rarely ever get into any sort of scuffles with one another and find a way to look on the bright side of any dark day. But this is not a movie about that type of family. This is a movie about a bunch of mean, twisted, dark, angry and sometimes sinister people that see each other as family, but don’t necessarily treat each other as such. Instead, they treat each other as punching-bags when they feel defenseless and have nobody else to poke-fun at or pick a fight with. And when the going gets good and one gets offended, then they bring everybody else into the fight, allowing there to be more and more victims in line for the slaughter.

That’s what I saw with this family, but it was pretty clear that Wells didn’t see that and instead, makes this more of a “commercialized flick” that has plenty of arguments that dive into some pretty dark places, but end on a goofy-notes that you’d see in a feel-good, “crazy family” movie. Even the poster I decided against using promises that there will be a cat-fight by at least some of the characters here, and it gives you the impression that this is going to be a light and happy-going movie, that still has a couple of lessons about life to bestow upon us. It certainly does too, but not the kind that make you feel like you want to hug your mommy, daddy or nearest family-member. But Wells didn’t seem to get that notion and the movie feels a bit disjointed as a result.

But that disjointed feel doesn’t just begin and end with Wells’ direction, it actually can be said the same for this very talented, very entertaining cast, which is a damn shame too, considering almost everybody involved puts in some great work. The main culprit who I think probably runs the highest-risk of getting caught in the cross-fire of this movie’s production is Meryl Streep who, once again, may be putting in an amazing performance here as Violet, still feels like she’s just going for the big, over-exposed sense of acting that we usually see her do from time-to-time, but don’t have much of a gripe with because, well, it’s Meryl Streep for lord’s sakes. That doesn’t mean she isn’t good or anything, she totally is, it’s just that every scene Streep is given to act her ass-off as Violet, she doesn’t hold-back and after awhile, you start to wish that she would just tone it down a bit. I get that she’s a bitch in the play and that’s probably how she was written in the first place, but Meryl’s a talented-enough actress to know that a character/performance can be adapted into many different ways, using many different styles of acting.

Same can be said for Julia Roberts as Barbara who, is definitely relishing her time in a role that we don’t usually see her do, seems like she’s going for the big, the loud and the over-exposed, rather than just taking it down a notch here and there. Roberts is still great and shows us why she doesn’t just have the looks, but the talents as well, but the problem remained that whenever her and Streep were on the same screen together, it seemed like they were both trying too hard to steal the spot-light from the other. It does make the slightest bit of sense when you take into consideration the fact that their characters are supposed to be constantly at-battle with one another, but most of the time, they just end-up in screaming bouts that only seem to go on and on and on, without much entertainment involved whatsoever. You’re just watching two of Hollywood’s most well-known actresses go up against one another and, for lack of a better word, do shop.

The dinner table: Where it all goes down.

The dinner table: Where it all goes down.

Some of it may be fun to watch, but after awhile, the act begins to get a bit old and you begin to wonder why one of them doesn’t just leave the other one’s sight for the rest of eternity. And don’t feed me that “family is everything” bullshit either.

While Streep and Roberts are more than likely going to be the sole-performances here that get plenty of the awards-attention (and in some cases, rightfully so as they definitely do put in some great work), I can’t help but feel like there are some far better, more in-tuned performances left out on the side, looking in while these two wild ladies go at it. Margo Martindale has been putting in great work practically everywhere she shows up, and does a fantastic job as Aunt Mattie, playing-up both sides of her act that we see many times. She can be either very, very sweet, with just a slight sense of sarcasm, or terribly mean and cruel to those around her. She’s great here and in ways, feels like she would have been a better casting-decision for the role of Violet than Streep. In ways. Chris Cooper is also great as her very calm, very peaceful hubby that you can tell doesn’t take much of crap from anyone, but surely isn’t the one to keep a fight going on once it’s already begun.

But somehow, the real stand-out among this whole cast is Julianne Nicholson who gets by on playing it soft, sweet and rather subdued, which is a shock considering all of the havoc going on around her. Maybe it was just that she was granted a better role than the others in this movie, but she was the one I resonated with the most and actually felt bad for, whereas everybody else seemed like just a bunch of mean a-holes that I didn’t want to spend another second with. Loved listen to them bicker and bat with one another, but if this was my own family, I think I would have to move away to a whole other state, let alone country.

Consensus: There seems to be a bit of a disjoint in the way in which August: Osage County is supposed to tell its story, which causes plenty of problems with its tone and overall message at the end, but watching all of these talented actors just do work with one another, whether it be small and subtle, or loud and over-bearing, is always worth watching, especially if some of those said “talented actors” just so happen to be Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, and Chris Cooper, just to name a few.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Cheer up, girls! It's not like two of you won't get nominated, while the other gets left-out in the dark....

Cheer up, girls! It’s not like two of you won’t get nominated, while the other gets left-out in the dark….

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

About these ads

35 responses to “August: Osage County (2013)

  1. confusedalotofthetime January 11, 2014 at 4:01 am

    uggghh that film was terrible, it was like watching every generic family drama based around death and illness in one film with try hard attempts at bloated emotions and family screw ups I can’t stand that writer and I hated Killer Joe as well, even though it was a better film.

    • CMrok93 January 13, 2014 at 6:35 am

      This one is definitely elevated by the performances, but that’s about it. And even then, though, they aren’t as “amazing” as they should be in order to save this in every which way.

  2. Alex Thomas (@Athomas20) January 11, 2014 at 4:25 am

    I read somewhere that the film should be called: ACTING: OSAGE COUNTY which I would definitely agree with.

    Agree with your review (I gave it 8/10), it’s a shame the end becomes a bit muddled as I was loving it until the final 20 minutes or so.

  3. jjames36 January 11, 2014 at 4:35 am

    I haven’t seen this yet either, but I mostly want to. Your review confirms it’s worth watching, even if there are a handful of flaws. Great work, Dan!

  4. Consumed by Film January 11, 2014 at 4:52 am

    Of all the films up for awards contention that i’ve yet to see, this one has caught my attention the least (it’s not out for another few weeks over here in the UK). What with American Hustle, 12 Years a Slave, The Wolf of Wall Street etc. the competition is fierce!

    Great review Dan! Good or bad, at least i’m more interested now.

  5. thycriticman January 11, 2014 at 9:20 am

    Well written review. I do not have any current plans to ever be viewing this, but after reading this, and looking at trailers, it does seem that it is the actors and actresses that may make it worth giving it a shot. I watched Killer Joe last night, and knowing this was written by the same person, kind of catches my attention.

    • CMrok93 January 13, 2014 at 6:38 am

      The dialogue is punchy, but worked a lot better there than it does here. I think most of that just has to do with the fact that the performances here are so over-bearing, to the point where you don’t even want to listen to anybody, ANYMORE.

  6. The Movie Man (Ben Russell) January 11, 2014 at 10:20 am

    Martindale is such a phenomenal actress. I had a feeling she would act rings around Streep and Roberts. I’ll probably get annoyed at this movie if they don’t focus so much on the minor characters, and keep the spotlight on Streep and Roberts. Great review Dan. I’m dying to see this movie!

    • CMrok93 January 13, 2014 at 6:40 am

      The performances are good, so if that’s what you’re looking for, you won’t be fully disappointed. However, for me, I wanted a bit more dramatic-heft added to the proceedings, but I appreciated some of it.

  7. thomasjford January 11, 2014 at 10:33 am

    When I read about this I thought it must be some sort of chick flick about a load of women, but when I saw it was based on a play by Tracy alerts it piqued my interest. I look forward to seeing this.

  8. gloganwriter January 11, 2014 at 10:35 am

    Very interested by this. Great review Dan

  9. Lights Camera Reaction January 11, 2014 at 10:54 am

    Nice review. I did like it, but found it a little overwhelming at times. I thought Julianne Nicholson was remarkable and agree with you that she was the standout.

  10. vinnieh January 11, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    Great review, Streep and Roberts seem to be getting a lot of attention for this film.

  11. Mark Walker January 11, 2014 at 2:50 pm

    Good work here Dan. It’s interesting that this is the same writer as Killer Joe and Bug (both of which, I loved). I’ll definitely be checking this out. It’s a solid cast aswell.

  12. Katy Chung January 11, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    “You’re just watching two of Hollywood’s most well-known actresses go up against one another and, for lack of a better word, do shop.” That’s disappointing to hear, but I can totally understand it I haven’t seen this yet, but I planned on it.

    “Some of it may be fun to watch, but after awhile, the act begins to get a bit old and you begin to wonder why one of them doesn’t just leave the other one’s sight for the rest of eternity.”
    It’s funny that you point this out, because I think that this type of dynamic is something that I think is inherently played out better on stage than it is on screen. For some reason, the stage setting allows you to forgive the sort of “talking or fighting for the sake of talking or fighting” whereas on screen the audience is kind of like “why on Earth am I watching this?” I think Roman Polanski pulled it off best in Carnage – for some reason, the urban apartment setting seemed more conducive to the sort of coming and going and arguing than would a large, sprawling house where it comes across as more of a first world problems/melodramatic for the sake of being melodramatic sort of situation.

    • CMrok93 January 13, 2014 at 6:46 am

      That movie worked well as an adaptation, although the way in which they kept on continuing to get suckered into coming back into the apartment didn’t quite work for me. However, this movie on the other hand, just feels a bit disjointed in spots I didn’t expect it to be.

  13. Three Rows Back January 11, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    Good review, which tallies with what I’ve heard about this. Saw the trailer the other day and wasn’t exactly blown away.

  14. Whit's Movie Reviews January 11, 2014 at 5:12 pm

    I heard this was pretty bad, but your review does seem like it could be worth it. Maybe I’ll check it out when it comes to rental. Thanks for the info and great review!

  15. Tom January 11, 2014 at 8:09 pm

    Nice review Dan. I think I’ll skip out on this one, none of it just seems appealing to me. Not even the great Meryl Streep. By the sounds of it, everyone is unpleasant and the event just sounds like a farce. And if it got higher marks with everyone, like if this was in the 80s or 90s %, maybe i’d be there but it just doesn’t seem to be in the cards for this guy!

  16. literaryvittles January 12, 2014 at 12:35 am

    ugh, this sounds like what happens when my whole family gets together. I have no wish to watch that on a huge screen for two hours. No thank you.

  17. CMrok93 January 13, 2014 at 7:18 am

    But you know what? Your family may have been a lot more interesting to watch.

  18. Hera Syed January 17, 2014 at 12:01 am

    I wonder if I would have enjoyed the play that this was adapted from any better.

  19. Jim Turnbull January 18, 2014 at 10:41 pm

    Great review Dan! Hasn’t had much a buzz over here, but caught the trailer yesterday at cinema. Wasn’t sure what to make of it but the cast does look impressive. As you say it’s probably worth checking out for the actors alone. Big fan of Cumberbatch at the moment.

  20. Pingback: August: Osage County | The Soul of the Plot

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,524 other followers

%d bloggers like this: