August: Osage County (2013)

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Re: August: Osage County (2013)

Postby Precious Doll » Tue Sep 10, 2013 4:13 am

From The Hollywood Reporter

August: Osage County: Toronto Review

1:16 AM PDT 9/10/2013 by David Rooney

The Bottom Line

A solid reworking of the Broadway hit, though even with this high-wattage cast some electricity is missing.

Venue
Toronto Film Festival (Gala Presentation)
Opens
Wednesday, Dec. 25 (Weinstein Co.)

Cast
Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis, Margo Martindale, Dermot Mulroney, Julianne Nicholson, Sam Shepard, Misty Upham
Screenwriter: Tracy Letts, based on his play
Director: John Wells

Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts head an all-star ensemble in the screen version of Tracy Letts' acclaimed play about a messed-up Oklahoma family.

TORONTO – Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer and Tony-winning play about the unique capacity for cruelty of the modern American family, August: Osage County, is a fat juicy steak of a drama marinated in corrosive comedy. Arriving on the screen with mixed dividends from an all-star cast, the film doesn’t shed its inherent theatricality, stringing together speeches and showdowns peppered with nuggets of stagey dialog that resists being played in naturalistic closeup. But it’s nonetheless an entertaining adaptation, delivering flavorful rewards in some sharp supporting turns that flank the central mother-daughter adversaries.

The Weinstein Co. release opens in the thick of awards-season contention on Christmas Day, and its cast should attract a sizeable audience drawn to intelligent adult material. However, the film’s muted emotional payoff and dark shadings may ultimately keep it from doing more than respectable business.

Capably directed by John Wells from Letts’ compressed screenplay, the film comes in roughly an hour shorter than the play, with no significant loss of incident. Pulling back from the heightened reality of the stage muffles some of the savagery of Letts’ humor. And the play’s broader themes -- using the crumbling connections of one family to reflect on America’s dissipated soul -- are perhaps necessarily sidelined to focus on the human drama.
While it’s very much performance-driven, the movie makes some gains in translating the desolate landscape of Oklahoma from imagination to reality. Adriano Goldman’s hazily sun-bleached widescreen images of the long roads and lonely plains surrounding the old Weston family home convey an inescapable isolation these people have taken with them even when they moved away.
The bilious matriarch of the clan is Violet (Meryl Streep), whose overuse of painkillers has been somewhat legitimized by the fact she has cancer. To be specific, cancer of the mouth, a detail her husband Beverly (Sam Shepard) refers to as “the punch line.” An alcoholic poet-turned-academic, Beverly hires a Native American housekeeper (Misty Upham) to take care of his addled wife, then disappears without explanation, prompting Violet to summon their three daughters.

They arrive on the scene to bolster their mother, whose love comes laced with blunt criticism, humiliation and recriminations. Violet has no filter.
Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) is the seemingly mousy one who stayed single and close to home, enduring more than her share of their parents’ dysfunction. A chip off the old block in terms of her strength, Barbara (Julia Roberts) comes in from Colorado with her estranged husband Bill (Ewan McGregor) and weed-smoking 14-year-old daughter Jean (Abigail Breslin). Self-absorbed Karen (Juliette Lewis) arrives from Florida with her slick sportscar-driving fiancé Steve (Dermot Mulroney), convinced he’ll finally be the one that sticks.
Also rolling up with casseroles and comfort are Vi’s sister Mattie Fae (Margo Martindale), her husband Charles (Chris Cooper) and their insecure son, the tellingly named Little Charles (Benedict Cumberbatch), whose failings are one of his mother’s favorite topics.
Whatever secrets these people think they’re keeping, Vi lets them know that nobody slips anything by her. Worrying news makes way for tragedy, plus a whole string of awkward disclosures, which gives her less and less reason to hold back.
Violet Weston is a fabulous character, a venomous gorgon who doesn’t let a little cognitive impairment get in her way when she’s spoiling for a fight. She’s Martha from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by way of Mary Tyrone in Long Day’s Journey Into Night. Edward Albee and Eugene O’Neill were obvious influences on Letts, along with a dash of Tennessee Williams, Lillian Hellman and Shepard. (That adds resonance to the latter’s handsomely craggy presence in the cast, playing a small but memorable role originated onstage by the playwright’s late father.)

As Vi, Streep is every bit as mercurial, ferocious and funny as one would expect. Slapping on a brunette wig over a sparse crop of gray when she can be bothered, she careens from needling attacks to sneaky insinuations, from drugged-out incoherence to puddles of self-pity, often punctuating those shifts with a vulgar snort of a laugh. However, like her work in another recent screen adaptation of a Broadway hit, Doubt, she hits all her marks with brilliant technique but brings no element of surprise. As good as Streep is, the chewy part actually might have benefited from a left-field casting choice.
Roberts gets stuck with some of the more theatrical dialogue, and her role has a less complete arc than in the play, where Barbara’s bitterness and disappointment were underscored by the creeping realization that she’s more like her mother than she cares to admit. Roberts’ characterization favors the hardened, brittle side, which is a little one-note at first. But the performance grows steadily in stature as she balks at Vi’s out-of-control behavior and takes charge of the crisis. It’s probably her grittiest role since Erin Brockovich.
Lewis is amusing as a deluded girly girl who’s not the brightest, babbling inappropriately with no read on the people around her. And Nicholson is a quiet revelation in the more contained role of Ivy. For a long time watching and listening without saying much, she eventually makes a move to assert herself and carve out some happiness in the drama’s most affecting strand. Playing against type as a man inured to being treated as invisible or regarded as a loser, Cumberbatch is also quite touching.
Not all the ensemble has a lot to do, but the weak point is McGregor. He seems unsure of how to play Bill and not remotely at home in the American heartland. When you have actors with the ease and authenticity of Shepard, Cooper and Martindale on hand, the imposters stand out.

Cooper has the movie’s best scene, in which the thoroughly decent Charles refuses to let his wife’s outrageous belittling of their son continue, reeling at the spite that courses through her family’s blood. Martindale responds beautifully, shocked at him standing up to her and then chastened by the truth of what he says.
The strength of that scene says something about what’s missing in the film, which is intellectually and emotionally engaging moment to moment, but slightly lumpy in terms of overall flow. Wells capably directs the actors in individual scenes, but his work lacks the cohesiveness to really pull all the characters together and convey their shared past. The sad, heated exchange between Charles and Mattie Fae has more sensitivity, more raw feeling and more sense of the couple’s history than any other scene in the movie.
Venue: Toronto Film Festival (Gala Presentation)
Opens: Wednesday, Dec. 25 (Weinstein Co.)
Cast: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis, Margo Martindale, Dermot Mulroney, Julianne Nicholson, Sam Shepard, Misty Upham
Production companies: Jean Doumanian, Smokehouse Pictures, in association with Battle Mountain Films, Yucaipa Films
Director: John Wells
Screenwriter: Tracy Letts, based on his play
Producers: George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Jean Doumanian, Steve Traxler
Executive producers: Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein, Ron Burkle, Claire Rudnick Polstein, Celia Costas, Jeffrey Richards, Jerry Frankel
Director of photography: Adriano Goldman
Production designer: David Gropman
Music: Gustavo Santaolalla
Costume designer: Cindy Evans
Editor: Stephen Mirrione
Sales: Weinstein Co.
No rating, 120 minutes.
"I think he sexually assaulted a child and I don't think that's right…It's gotten very quiet in here, but that's true." Susan Sarandon on Woody Allen, Cannes Film Festival 2016

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Re: August: Osage County (2013)

Postby The Original BJ » Thu Sep 05, 2013 4:07 pm

I think this is Julia Roberts's best performance since her Oscar win, but I think the movie is just so fully dominated by Streep, I don't know if she'll get much traction.

Margo Martindale (who I know a little, and who I completely adore) was my second-favorite from the cast, and I think she's a very possible supporting actress nominee, though she underplays her big scene in a way that makes me think her nomination, at this point, wouldn't be certain.

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Re: August: Osage County (2013)

Postby Mister Tee » Thu Sep 05, 2013 2:51 pm

Eric wrote:Fully prepared for Margo Martindale to get Ann Dowd'ed out of the running, but then again, Martindale has a high-profile Emmy to her credit going into the race.

I'd also note Martindale (who does physically resemble Dowd) benefits from being in a film that'll be widely seen for the Streep performance alone (unlike the tiny indie Compliance), and the Tony-winning pedigree of her role.

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Re: August: Osage County (2013)

Postby Eric » Thu Sep 05, 2013 2:30 pm

Fully prepared for Margo Martindale to get Ann Dowd'ed out of the running, but then again, Martindale has a high-profile Emmy to her credit going into the race.

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Re: August: Osage County (2013)

Postby flipp525 » Thu Sep 05, 2013 11:06 am

BJ - Any other standouts from the August cast? Are Julia Roberts and Margo Martindale as good as earlier reports stated?
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Re: August: Osage County (2013)

Postby Okri » Thu Sep 05, 2013 5:13 am

Its being campaigned as a lead now.

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Re: August: Osage County (2013)

Postby The Original BJ » Wed Sep 04, 2013 5:43 pm

I have now seen August: Osage County, and though I can't say a lot just yet, I will say that Violet's role is even MORE dominant in the film version than it was onstage. Which is to say, Meryl Streep -- who gives her best performance in quite a while, and it's not like she's been slacking -- just towers over the movie. As Mister Tee said about Blanchett in Blue Jasmine, every single scene could be Streep's Oscar clip, and the movie is directed and cut in such a way as to give Violet the maximum showcase. My feelings on this potential supporting campaign are well known, but I genuinely think it would make people angry in a way we haven't seen before, because seeing this actress in a major star turn relegated to the supporting category would just be obnoxious.

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Re: August: Osage County (2013)

Postby OscarGuy » Thu Aug 15, 2013 3:56 pm

I think that's great that they've gotten it right a couple of times, but let's not forget that since then they've still gotten it wrong (Hailee Steinfeld anyone?).
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Re: August: Osage County (2013)

Postby Big Magilla » Thu Aug 15, 2013 3:32 pm

Actors' preferences and producers' ads may get voters thinking in a certain direction, but it's ultimately up to the voters. Despite the push to nominate Kate Winslet in support for The Reader she was nominated (and won) in lead. The same with Keisha Castle-Hughes in Whale Rider, remember her?

It's a lot better this way than in the period from 1945, in the wake of Barry Fitzgerald's dual nomination the year before, to 1970 or shortly thereafter when studios dictated placement with no wiggle room for voters.

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Re: August: Osage County (2013)

Postby ksrymy » Thu Aug 15, 2013 1:35 pm

I was talking about critical hoopla. I know category fraud is this board' least favorite thing ever.
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Re: August: Osage County (2013)

Postby Greg » Thu Aug 15, 2013 1:31 pm

Obviously ksrymy only showed up on this board after Casey Affleck and Jesse James.
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Re: August: Osage County (2013)

Postby OscarGuy » Thu Aug 15, 2013 12:31 pm

People around here DID complain about Hudson's push to support for Dreamgirls. The category fraud issue has ben a cause-célèbre here for a very long time.
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Re: August: Osage County (2013)

Postby ksrymy » Thu Aug 15, 2013 12:07 pm

I don't remember there being as much hoopla over Jennifer Hudson's supporting in Dreamgirls. Effie is another role that won a lead Tony much like Violet in August. Is this just because it's Meryl? Is it because it was Hudson's screen debut? I do. I don't think people would care at all if it were any other actor except maybe Daniel Day-Lewis.
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Re: August: Osage County (2013)

Postby ITALIANO » Wed Aug 14, 2013 2:54 am

Yes but honestly - it's actors who should rebel against this. Don't they know that theirs is a leading rather than a supporting role? They have a brain, and a character - they aren't just products which the producers promote. They should rebel - simple. And trust me, id they did category fraud wouldn't exist anymore. And in Europe they would rebel. But this is not Europe, and there is a difference, it seems.

But then Meryl Streep, while definitely a great actress, certainly isn't the kind of person who goes against the system. I still can't forget her standing up and applauding Elia Kazan. Sensitive, immensely talented - but not an Emma Goldman, let's face it.

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Re: August: Osage County (2013)

Postby Okri » Tue Aug 13, 2013 6:28 pm

I'm more annoyed because frankly, it's not as if Meryl was going to win this year.

That and you know the critics awards will just follow suit as will AMPAS.


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