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.
An elderly Margaret Thatcher talks to the imagined presence of her recently deceased husband as she struggles to come to terms with his death while scenes from her past life, from girlhood to British prime minister, intervene.
Richard E. Grant
While subjected to the horrors of World War II Germany, young Liesel finds solace by stealing books and sharing them with others. In the basement of her home, a Jewish refugee is being sheltered by her adoptive parents.
Violet Weston (Meryl Streep) has cancer and a propensity for pills and alcohol. She's a difficult woman to deal with and her husband has finally had enough. Violet's family gathers including youngest daughter Ivy, middle daughter Karen (with her new fiancé), eldest daughter Barbara (with her separated husband and teenage daughter), and her sister Mattie Fae (with her husband and son in tow). A family tragedy causes tensions to run high and secrets to come out. The Weston women will be forced to examine themselves and their lives whether they want to or not. Welcome to Osage County, Oklahoma in the sweltering heat of August. Written by
The fierce performances and characters engage in the moment, even if the overall narrative is lacking
I've never seen the play on which this film is based so in a way it was good to come to this film really knowing nothing more than "people are saying this is good so maybe I should go see it". The plot sees a deeply dysfunctional family of strong-willed and vitriolic women coming back together in the wake of a family tragedy. Resentment, past hurts, bitterness and vitriol are the underlying themes as the family sits around the dinner table. I shan't say too much more than that not because the plot is best left unknown (although it is) but more because there really isn't too much more actual plot to worry about and instead the film is more about the characters and a study of the family.
In some ways this is a bad thing and it does make the film feel long and rather lacking in a narrative drive. I can understand why many have found it dull and low on direction and focus but for me personally I thought that the strength brought about by this approach was just about enough to overcome the weaknesses inherent in it. That strength is simply in the way that it takes a very talented group of actresses, puts them together and gives them some really strong scenes to get their teeth into. Additionally, and I don't mean to be rude, but this group is of an age which Hollywood casting agents generally starts forgetting exists due to their age. As a result of this the film almost always engages in the moment or in any specific scene as we see instantly recognizable characters lash out at each other, playing out old patterns of hurt in a way that we are able to recognize them as "old patterns" even though we as viewers are here for the first time. So as a collection of scenes, the film is almost always working well it is just when it has to come together that it doesn't do quite as well.
Despite this it is great to watch the cast go at it. Streep is great as usual and is utterly convincing as someone so engrained in patterns of behavior and carrying so much pain in her that it has affected everything OK the cancer and the "eating pain" stuff may make it a bit too obvious, but even still she is good at what she has to do. Roberts is not quite on that level here but is still very strong while Nicholson and Lewis do well with big supporting characters. Martindale may not be as big a name (or role) but those that watch Justified already know she has presence and she holds her own here really well. The male cast are very much second fiddle but there are still good turns throughout from Cooper, Shepard, Cumberbatch, Mulroney and McGregor. The risk is that the cast feels too heavy with stars, but they are all so convincing that once they had been on screen for a little, I was more focused on the character than the career.
August Osage County is one of many films getting hyped up around the awards period and as with many films it is not as perfectly brilliant as you'll be told it is. The narrative does move but the film always seems happiest when it is just sitting and letting the family be themselves and as a result it does move slowly and perhaps the story lacks real impact. However, just as the film is happy, so are the cast and the strong individual scenes give plenty for the cast to work with, and they return the favor with a really strong ensemble feel that is engaging and convincingly laced with hurt and anger and it is this that makes the film strong and worth a look.
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