Sunday, January 19, 2014

AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY - 2 nominations


Actress in a Leading Role - Meryl Streep
Actress in a Supporting Role - Julia Roberts

Yikes.  Where to begin on this adaptation of acclaimed playwright Tracy Letts' Tony nominated play, August: Osage County?  Fully disclosure, I saw the play and I thought it was superb.  This tale of a highly dysfunctional family with an alcoholic father and a pill-popping mother brings together the entire family in a star-studded melange of crazy, both in hidden family secrets and in plain as day problems. The family comes together when the father goes missing, and is ultimately discovered dead, presumably by suicide.

The cast list is ridiculously good, jam packed with past Oscar nominees and winners, not to mention that when it appeared on Broadway, they needed a cart to carry out all of the Tony awards it won, including Best Play.  Needless to say, when I saw the preview for the film, I couldn't wait to see it.

And then I saw it.  I'll raise my yikes to an oy.

We see a harsh "truth-telling" mother (Meryl Streep), an aunt (Margo Martindale) too hard on her son (Benedict Cumberbatch), and three daughters played by Julia Roberts whose husband (Ewan McGregor) is leaving her for a younger woman and whose daughter (Abigail Breslin) has normal but annoying teenage angst, Juliette Lewis whose boyfriend (Dermot Mulroney) is behaving inappropriately with the 14 year old girl by giving her pot and making overly sexualized overtures, and Julianne Nicholson who plays the dutiful daughter having a secret affair with the man she presumes to be her cousin (spoiler alert: it's more creepy than that).

All that would be ok, could be darkly funny even, except that it just doesn't work on screen.  

My idol Meryl Streep who can do no wrong went so unbelievably wrong.  I can't tell if she's trying to act "to the back wall," (as they say in the theater world) and forgetting that a movie doesn't have a back wall, or if she just had trouble finding the right tempo for her performance.  She plays drug-induced angry as well as anyone, if not better, but somehow it just didn't work for me.  Maybe because the character is written with so little humanity or that in the parts that do reflect her humanity, Streep doesn't soften enough to get to me.  This might just be a case of "Meryl did a movie so it's time for a nomination," which appears to be the rule in Hollywood.  (Really, a nom for Devil Wears Prada?  Is someone messing with me?)

On the other hand, Julia Roberts was excellent in the film and she does manage to be the stabilizing influence that allows for some of the funnier moments to emerge.  We can see the challenges of the sandwich generation, and we relate to her because she seems to be striving for equilibrium both as a character and as an actress.  She was very good - not Oscar good - but good nonetheless.

August: Osage County is a hard movie to sit through.  It's more of a labor than entertainment, and I don't recommend it highly.  I can't see any Oscar wins on March 2nd for this one.

Haven't seen the film?
August: Osage County Movie Trailer

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