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August: Osage County

Updated on March 16, 2014

August: Osage County

Director: John Wells

Writer: Tracy Letts

Cast: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sam Shepard, Margo Martindale, Dermot Mulroney, Julianne Nicholson, Juliette Lewis, Abigail Breslin, Misty Upham, Will Coffey, Newell Alexander, Jerry Stahl, Dale Dye, Ivan Allen, Arlin Miller

Synopsis: A look at the lives of the strong-willed women of the Weston family, whose paths have diverged until a family crisis brings them back to the Oklahoma house they grew up in, and to the dysfunctional woman who raised them.

MPAA Rating: Rated R for language including sexual references, and for drug material

And you thought your family was dysfunctional?

Dirty old men lusting after underage girls. A family riddled with incest. Men having sleazy affairs on their wives. Women verbally abusing their children. Drug addiction, lies and suicides running rampant among this highly dysfunctional family. Gee, where's Jerry Springer when you need him!?! Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!

Anyway, the film is based on a Broadway play of the same name. "August: Osage County" tells the story of the Weston daughters diverging on different paths in life, but they're brought back to the Oklahoma house they grew up in, after their father committed suicide. Nobody really knows why he killed himself allegedly. However, we do find out how truly dysfunctional this family is through their interactions with each other.

Sure, there's a few tender moments of bonding here and there. Heck, even when the characters are caught doing things like incest and infidelity, the film sets it up in a way that you still can't help but feel incredibly sorry for all of them just the same. Take in mind, there are no saints in this family, as they all have secrets to hide. Some are small like a few drugs here and there, or perhaps the real reason why the father committed suicide in the first place.

Without giving away too much, the sisters bond again after being away for years. Some of them have moved on to bigger and better things, while others not so much. However, as we see this family bonding together, we soon learn that things aren't as they seem, as lies are revealed and the truth comes out. Needless to say, it's not pretty when things hit the fan. .

Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep play off each other beautifully in this film, as one would expect of actresses of their caliber. Julia Roberts (Barbara Weston) plays the eldest daughter in this story, and the accused favorite child that abandoned her father years ago when she moved away. She's essentially a tough as nails kind of girl, and she can be every bit as feisty as her mother is; which is why they often go head to head throughout this film.

Meryl Streep (Violet Weston) plays the senile old gal, who has a very cynical view on everything; even her own kin. It's amazing watching them in this movie, as it almost seems like Violet is something of a dark reflection for Barbara in a lot of ways. Of course, it's even more apparent when we see the climax of this film, as it leaves us with sort of an open ending to allow the viewers to depict for themselves on what they think happens, after the credits roll..

Sadly, most movies don't have these kind of endings anymore; unless they're a serialized movie franchise setting up the next film. However, this story isn't going to have a sequel, nor should it. The story is very powerful, and deeply insightful. Sometimes offering us splashes of humor to lower it's audience into a false sense of security, and then delivering that dramatic blow that'll throw them in for a loop. To say this film's script is great would be a huge understatement.

As for the rest of the cast, they were fairly decent for the parts they were required to play. Chris Cooper (Charlie Aiken) manages to deliver a solid performance in this film, as he plays the supportive father to little Charles Aiken (Benedict Cumberbatch). Although, the film never addresses this directly, but it's heavily implied throughout the movie that little Charles has something of a learning disability, which causes most of the family to look down upon him; especially his own mother, who relishes in verbally abusing him every chance she gets. Even though Charlie loves his wife very much, you can tell that it deeply angers him to see his wife treat their son this way.

As for Benedict Cumberbatch, he completely sells us on the idea that he's mentally handicapped. In fact, it's almost hard to believe that he's the same guy that played Khan in last year's "Star Trek Into Darkness", as you'd swear they were two different people. It's almost amazing to watch Benedict go to work in this film.

Sadly, the rest of the characters are fairly forgettable, and the film tends to drag at times. Making a two hour film seem like a three hour one isn't a good sign to say the least.

Overall, I wouldn't say this is among one of the best movies of last year, but it's definitely a great character study about a dysfunctional family that has gone through so much. Definitely worth checking out at a rating of three out of four.

© 2014 Steven Escareno

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