An untimely death reunites the Weston family in Osage County, a sleepy town in northern Oklahoma. Violet Weston is the strong-willed head of the family but is a drug addict, bitter and twisted with her life. Her estranged daughters Barbara (Julia Roberts – Pretty Woman), Karen (Juliette Lewis – From Dusk Till Dawn) and Ivy (Julianne Nicholson – Boardwalk Empire) can’t bear to spend any more time with her given their less-than-idyllic upbringing. When all of them get together for the funeral, it’s not long before family secrets and home truths resurface and cause added tension to their already-strained family dynamic.
August: Osage County may be construed as unabashed awards season fodder but that would be doing it a huge disservice. Based on the play by Tracy Letts, it’s a tour-de-force of standout performances that oozes quality at every turn. With ER and Southland supremo John Wells in the director’s chair too, this popular stage story translates perfectly to the big screen with George Clooney acting as the films executive producer.
The cast make this dysfunctional family tick along nicely with Meryl Streep once again showing that she is peerless when it comes to acting. She is simply sensational in the movie and fully deserves Oscar gold for her portrayal of the matriarch of the family Violet Weston. Julia Roberts matches her resolve as the eldest daughter whilst the sisterly squabbles between Roberts, Juliette Lewis and Julianne Nicholson are both cleverly scripted and truthful.
The rest of the cast are all memorable with Chris Cooper and Benedict Cumberbatch particular favourites as a compassionate father and son both challenging a miserable wife and mother (played by Justified’s Margot Martindale). Abigail Breslin proves that she’s all grown up now and does well alongside Dermot Mulroney, and there are strong supporting turns from Sam Shepard and Ewan McGregor (even though his American accent still hasn’t improved).
With such a big ensemble you’d be forgiven for thinking that some of the roles go begging but that’s where this film works so effectively. Every single character is fleshed out thoroughly and cast to perfection. Every thread of this story features people and circumstances that could easily make a standalone movie. Together, it weaves a curious tapestry of dysfunction that’s wonderful and bittersweet to watch.
August: Osage County is a brilliant story that will make you laugh, cry, winch and weep. Its colourful palette of characters always keeps things interesting and with Tracy Letts biting script and John Wells keen eye for detail, August: Osage County comes in as one of the best dramas you’re likely see this year.