Film Review – August: Osage County

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Release date – January 1st 2014

When Julia Roberts took up the challenge to return to acting for the opportunity to perform alongside Meryl Streep in this story of three sisters and their tough as nails mother, she could never have imagined how intense the role would be.

”It was a blessing and a curse,” muses Roberts, on her adversarial role. ”It’s such a great part, but in my fantasy of being with Meryl every day, I wasn’t choking her.”

The dysfunctional relationships come to a head when the family gathers around the dinner table following the news that Beverly Weston (Sam Shepard) has gone missing.

Bev is father to Barb (Julia Roberts), Ivy (Julianne Nicholson), and Karen (Juliette Lewis), and long suffering husband to Violet (Meryl Streep).

The names of a few of the characters  sum up their main attributes – Barb is just that – barbed, cynical and lacking kindness – no surprise when we get to spend time with her Mum who is just shy of violent in her disdain for her family.

Ewan McGregor plays Bill Fordham – Barb’s unfaithful husband and father to their daughter Jean (Abigail Breslin), and you wonder if he is normal, or maybe just a bit wet.

This is not the type of film I would usually pay to see at the cinema. Absent of superheroes and devoid of special effects, it’s a powerful character study of what happens when people endure hardship and pass on those “enduring” qualities to their children.

Caught in the space between a comedy and a drama, the film relies on it’s razor sharp dialogue and sensational performances to hold your attention for close to two hours.

Streep is Spellbinding.

Benedict Cumberbatch is captivating as “Little Charles”, a family member so meek it’s the Yin to Cumberbatch’s Yang in his turn as the Dragon Smaug.

Riveting viewing as it unfolds, this is great storytelling with wonderful writing and superb acting. The direction by John Wells who gave us 2006’s The Company Men brings every imaginable idea from the playbook of black humour.

There are a lot of laughs, but it is a deeply unsettling film because for many of us, family life can be a struggle. It’s unlikely though that many of us have the same skeletons in the cupboard leaping out as the Westons do.

I’m still mulling over what to make of it all. I’m not sure I’ve been left with much – and quite possibly that’s the idea.

At the start of the film Beverly says “Life is Very Long” a reference to T.S. Eliot and his poem The Hollow Men, and this is a story that indeed ends with not a bang but a whimper.

I’ll watch this again on DVD.

A DVD that I will buy with money I will win betting that Meryl Streep takes home at least one Best Actress Award this season.

When you do check this film out – DO NOT MISS the Catfish scene.

4 stars.

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