Family dramas have always been one of my favorite sort of movies. The conflicting and explosive confrontations between different members of a peculiar family always provide for a great viewing experience. The most absorbing of such films are those filled with intriguing characters brought to the screen by talented actors, an outstanding script that fleshes out these personalities, and, of course, a director who is able to take all of these ingredients and turn them into a terrific time at the cinema. August: Osage County is one such film.
August: Osage County is directed by John Wells and stars an astonishing and eclectic cast that includes Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis, Ewan McGregor, Margo Martindale, Abigail Breslin, and Julianne Nicholson. The film is based on the play of the same name from Tracy Letts and revolves around a group of women gathering together amid a family crisis which reveals how distant they have become from one another. The motion picture is a comedy-drama that runs for two hours.
Front and center in August: Osage County is the wonderful cast who are easily some of the best actors working in Hollywood today, spearheaded by Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts. What is there left to be said about the most phenomenal and extraordinary actress of our time, Meryl Streep? She is simply outstanding in August: Osage County as the bitter, abusive, and angry matriarch of the family, Violet Weston. Violet suffers a family tragedy that only makes her even more aggressive to those around her and Streep totally inhibits Violet and chews every scene she is in, regardless of whoever is sharing those scenes with her. Streep’s work here is a blistering, explosive performance that makes August: Osage County an absorbing movie experience.
There is also the formidable Julia Roberts who plays Barbara Weston, Violet’s eldest daughter who has a whole host of problems on her own. Julia has been more selective in her film roles during the past few years, only picking challenging or interesting parts. That is certainly the case with August: Osage County as she takes part in a wonderful ensemble but gives it her own distinctive trademarks that have made her one of contemporary cinema’s most beloved actresses. She provides her character, Barbara, a lot of energy and passion that makes her compete for the audience’s attention, even when acting opposite the legendary Streep. It is yet another memorable role from a highly-gifted actress.
The rest of the cast in August: Osage County also does a great job in bringing their characters to life. Margo Martindale, who has given a couple of outstanding performances both in movies and television shows, continues to provide the audience with a highly-entertaining display through her character Mattie Fae Aiken, even rivaling both Streep and Roberts. Chris Cooper, who was outstanding in the films Adaptation (2002) and The Bourne Supremacy (2004), is another gifted character actor who plays Martindale’s husband, Charlie Aiken, with a lot of devotion and attention.
That is all without mentioning two additional female leads who manage to catch my attention throughout the film’s runtime, Juliette Lewis and Julianne Nicholson. Lewis and Nicholson play the roles of Karen and Ivy Weston, respectively, Barbara’s two sisters. I have always been a fan of Lewis ever since her heartbreaking performance in the crime drama Kalifornia (1993). Her character in August: Osage County, Karen, is a woman who has aged considerably but has had plastic surgery done to hide that fact, without much success. She is a woman who is always in desperate need of being with a man in her life to give her importance and attention, even if they are not always a good influence on her. Nicholson, on the other hand, plays the sensitive and quiet Ivy. After both of her sisters have left their family home to pursue interests elsewhere, it is Ivy who has had to deal with taking care of both her parents all by herself. That takes a toll on her both emotionally and psychologically, making her shy and unable to create long-lasting relationships. Both of these actresses bring a level of realism and honesty to their respective roles that make the audience unable but to fall in love with them.
A special mention should be given to the excellent British actor Benedict Cumberbatch. He plays Little Charles Aiken, the son of Charlie and Mattie Fae Aiken. His is a sensitive, highly-emotional character who is filled with doubt and always looking to please those around him. I found Cumberbatch superb in his portrayal as he plays a new sort of character than his previous personas in the recent Star Trek film or the television show Sherlock (2010-Present). He continues to impress me with his wide range as well as his ability to remain faithful to each role he takes up. A fantastic acting talent.
All of those wonderful actors are given the necessary space and time to develop and resonate with the audience thanks to the brilliant script by Tracy Letts. Letss’s screenplay is filled with raucous, boisterous, and harsh language that takes the audience by surprise. Not only that, Letts manages to give the dialogue much wit and sarcasm that I reveled in. This dysfunctional family is a live and noisy one, thanks to him. Complementing the unique screenplay is the directing from John Wells. Known for directing multiple episodes in some of the most popular television shows of all time, such as E.R. (1994-2009) and The West Wing (1999-2006), Wells orchestrates the events that unravel in the film in a way that keeps the viewers guessing then springing one surprise after another in shocking fashion. He also does not forget to give the film some quiet scenes that showcase the distinctive and desolate countryside of Osage County, Oklahoma, with the help of his cinematographer Adriano Goldman. As a whole, John Wells is able to create a film that is lively, energetic, and thoroughly engaging. I look forward to seeing where he goes from here.
August: Osage County is a film that has delighted me and one of the year’s best films, in my eyes. It contains a star-studded cast that is given the appropriate script that enables them to excel and showcase their acting abilities in the best way possible. They are all led by director John Wells, who is able to control the film well and give it a dynamic atmosphere that is highly-entertaining, even if it might be over-the-top in some scenes. Any film-lover who enjoys family dramas, especially flawed ones, will have a blast watching August: Osage County. It is a film I look forward to returning to in the near future.
MATM Rating: **** out of ****
- Meryl Streep (as Violet Weston)
- Julia Roberts (as Barbara Weston)
- Margo Martindale (as Mattie Fae Aiken)
Comedy / Drama