August: Osage County (2013) Poster

User Reviews

Add a Review
293 ReviewsOrdered By: Helpfulness
a sick bunch gathers to mourn a family member
blanche-218 November 2013
"August: Osage County" is a stunning, powerful play written by Tracy Letts - it rocked Broadway and won the Pulitzer Prize. And it's going to rock a movie theater near you. This isn't a movie for everyone. It's exhausting, it's full of really despicable people, and it's mighty depressing. But the acting is so terrific, the roles so strong, that you don't want to miss it.

It's the story of the Weston family: Violet, a drug-addicted cancer patient (Meryl Streep); her husband Beverley, a well-known poet (Sam Shepard); their daughters Barbara (Julia Roberts), Karen (Juliette Lewis), and Ivy (Julianne Nicholson); Violet's sister Minnie Fae Aiken (Margo Martindale), her husband Charles (Chris Cooper), and their son, known as Little Charles (Benedict Cumberbatch).

When Beverley commits suicide, the family gathers and it's wretched from the beginning. Violet is totally drugged, Barbara and her husband (Ewan McGregor) are in the process of breaking up, Ivy has a secret boyfriend and, though she stayed behind and has been caring for her mother, she's ready to leave for New York, and Karen arrives with her fiancée (Dermot Mulroney) who has been married three times and seems a little too interested in Barbara's 14-year-old daughter. When Little Charles arrives on a later bus than he was supposed to take, his mother belittles him in front of everyone. Little Charles is considered a not so little loser, and is the only likable one in the film.

Each daughter has reacted differently to having parents like Violet and Beverley. Barbara is hard and tough like her mother, Ivy keeps her feelings and desires to herself, and Karen is a dingbat looking for love, probably in all the wrong places. The Aiken dynamic - obviously Violet and Minnie were forced to grow up to be as tough and mean as possible in order to survive; Charles is quiet with a fury underneath, and Little Charles looks like he's going to break in two any minute. He shares the same secret as Ivy: they're in love and planning to go away together.

This is a grueling story of the destructive force of addiction, the danger of anger, the hurt of betrayal, and the pain caused by keeping secrets.

I was not fortunate enough to see the Broadway play so I can't compare the performances. I thought Meryl Streep was terrific - it's the kind of role actresses love, a sort of Martha in Virgina Woolf gone completely haywire, and except for Helen Mirren and Judy Dench, there's no one better to tackle it than Streep. Julia Roberts gives what is probably her best performance. She's not a favorite of mine, and I don't find her a particularly good actress, but she almost pulls this off, probably because of the talent surrounding her. Margo Martindale as the caustic and bitter Minnie, who reminds her niece that she's not just her "fat old aunt" is sensational. Violet, Barbara and Minnie have the showiest roles.

In the male roles, Sam Shepard, though his role is small, is elegant and sympathetic, and Chris Cooper doesn't have much to do until a showdown with Minnie, which is galvanizing. And Benedict Cumberbatch - what can I say - I adore the man. He's a nasty villain in Star Trek and here, an insecure young man who hates himself for his tardiness and inability to keep a job. He's heartbreaking. He can do anything and he proves it here as he sings -- yes, sings! -- to Ivy.

Your family, no matter the problems, will look like Leave it to Beaver after you see this film. See it - enjoy the fabulous acting and be grateful that you're not going home to anything like it. I hope.
141 out of 182 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Beats my family gatherings for verbal mud wrestling.
jdesando9 January 2014
"My wife takes pills, and I drink. That's the bargain we've struck." Beverly Watson (Sam Shepherd)

Let the acting begin: As if the race had begun to determine the most disaffected member of the most dysfunctional family ever depicted on film, August: Osage County is the most violent film this year without a drop of visible blood.

In order to pull off this Eugene O'Neil-Tennessee Williamsl-Sam Shepherd-like dramatic version of Tracy Letts' play (Letts is the screenwriter as well), director John Wells needed to have an A-list cast; he does just that. In arguably the best acting of the year, Meryl Streep plays Violet Weston, the drug-addled schizophrenic matriarch of a family where dinners end up with broken plates and hearts. Although her performance is a tour de force (when are hers not?), the Oscar may elude her this time because her character is so unlikeable, and, well, she eats most of the available scenery.

Heading the rest of the cast is Julia Roberts as daughter Barbara Weston, a soon-to-be-divorced realist absorbing the punches of mom and Barbara's Pippi-Longstocking-chasing husband (Ewan McGregor) until she almost can't take it anymore. This is the best acting of Roberts' career.

As if the challenges were not enough for a Thanksgiving in any of our families, Juliann Nicholson's Ivy Watson is so vulnerable that she has fallen for first cousin, Charles (Benedict Cumberbatch), a liaison discouraged by the family rank and file, whose ethical button is pushed by such irregularity but never their alcoholism and verbal abuse buttons.

The ultra-emotional violence and the pervasive shouting may turn away some delicate-souled audience members, but for me a language lover, sparring at the dinner table is delightful out-of-control wit. Acerbic to be sure, but not dull.

Barbara encapsulates the horror of the family: "Thank God we can't tell the future, or we'd never get out of bed."
38 out of 47 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Intense Film
mjcr9319 November 2013
This film was amazing. The cast, director, and cinematographer are top notch. It will surely be nominated for several Oscars. I had a chance to view it during a Film Festival and was excited that I got a ticket to this sold out showing. But then, halfway through the movie, I nearly walked out.

The outrageous, violent, destructive behavior of the characters and between the characters hit a little too close to home for my comfort. For those who think the actions of the characters seem over the top, let me assure you they are not. When you mix addiction, lies, and a lifetime of pain, you get exactly this type of toxic concoction.

I required multiple tissues to get me through to the end, but ultimately I stayed (as a film lover, I could not bring myself to walk out of such a wonderfully crafted movie). I'm glad I did.
116 out of 157 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
The fierce performances and characters engage in the moment, even if the overall narrative is lacking
bob the moo7 February 2014
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.
23 out of 29 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Gobsmackingly good
reknob26 January 2014
This is an exceptionally challenging film and most won't be able to stay with it as it hurtles, repeatedly, from hysterical comedy to blackest tragedy in almost the same breath - the term "tragicomedy" never fit a film so well ...

There are some stupendous performances here, Meryl Streep in particular but Roberts is outstanding too amongst a superb ensemble cast - the script is firecrackingly terrific and the (less is more when you've got this much going on ...) direction is perfect too ...

You know something? I'm a 48 year old guy with way over a thousand films under my belt and this may well creep into my all-time top 10, it's that good ...

58 out of 82 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Delightful Dysfunction "August: Osage County"
peibeck17 November 2013
Though nearly 40 minutes of Tracy Lett's Pulitzer Prize winning dramedy have been shaved for the screen version, "August: Osage County" still manages to deliver on the towering play's hearty laughs, gasp inducing shocks, and well earned tears.

While it is hardly the best adaptation of a play to a film, as much of the film still retains it's indoor, staging setting, it is boosted by some sterling performances of actors at the top of their craft. Chris Cooper and Margo Martindale are stellar, playing off each other with deft and precise timing. Julia Roberts has not had this good of a role in... ever, and she mostly delivers. Julianne Nicholson is both quiet yet fiercely determined as middle daughter Ivy. Sam Sheppard is amazing in the even more truncated role of the Weston family patriarch who goes missing, and Misty Upham is so good with so little to say as the young Indian woman, Johnna, tossed into a family in turmoil.

Of course the turmoil is led by the Medea-of-the-Midwest, Violet, played for every ounce by Meryl Streep in one of her most indelible performances ever. While viewers will surely be talking about the "infamous" post funeral dinner scene, the price of admission should be had for Streep's monologue late into the "second act," where she sits with her daughters on a swing set and discusses the worst Christmas ever: an acting class with the full gamut of emotion.

Viewers may be equally divided by spending 130 minutes with such unhappy people, but there are plenty of dark laughs in Letts' screenplay to alleviate the tension. And with actors these good interpreting the parts, "August: Osage County" is easier to swallow than some awkward family dinners we've all had to attend at some point in our lives.
71 out of 102 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
What did we do to deserve these people?
The_Film_Cricket19 January 2014
Warning: Spoilers
August: Osage County is a miserable experience. For all it's incredible acting talent, what has been given to them is a family drama about people so petty and hateful that sitting at their dinner table is like being on a bus with a bunch of mean drunks. Trailers for this movie would have you assume that this is a movie about a family that learns the meaning of bonding. It's not. This is a movie about a lot of spiteful, hateful, bull-headed, mean-spirited people who spend their time together throwing mean, hurtful insults at one another like a family reunion edition of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" Based on the Pulizer Prize Winning play by Tracy Letts (who also penned the screenplay) - August: Osage County works through the playbooks of Eugene O'Neill, Anton Chekov, Thorton Wilder and Edwin Albee, imitating their works but, not honoring them. Letts replaces human feeling with cuss fights, and we're left at the dinner table with people we with would just go away.

The story takes place in the far-flung, sun-baked landscape of Oklahoma, where we meet a long-married couple Violet and Beverly Weston whose connective marital tissue is that they enjoy hating one another. Beverly (Sam Shepard) is a poet who has a loving relationship with his booze. Violet (Meryl Streep) is suffering from mouth cancer and is taking so many prescription drugs that she's become an addict. We sympathize because of her condition but, in truth, Violet is a vile, bitter woman whose entire vocabulary is made up of acid-tinged insults that she happily flings at anyone in her hemisphere – the fact that she has mouth cancer is both literal and a metaphor.

Beverly goes out on his boat one day, but doesn't come back alive – some say accident, other say suicide. Upon his death, a flock of relatives descend on the Weston home, including Violet and Beverly's three daughters: Barbara (Julia Roberts) who is just as bitter as her mother; Ivey (Julianne Nicholson) who is solemn and quiet most of the time; and Karen (Juliette Lewis), a giddy chatterbox who is forever bragging about her honeymoon. Also around are Beverly's brother Charles (Chris Cooper), Violet's sister Fanny (Margo Martindale), their son Little Charles (Benedict Cumberbatch); Barbara's cheating husband Bill (Ewan McGregor), and his 14 year-old daughter Jean (Abigail Breslin). Take a good look at the talent involved here and consider that much of the movie has these people either shouting or hitting one another. Worse is that they are so predictable that you start counting the minutes until someone throws a dinner plate.

There are a lot of personal problems among this family; grudges, dormant feuds and petty arguments that come to light as this family gathers. Somewhere you might have reason to expect some measure of understanding. You expect some resolution, but it never comes. After the funeral, the family gathers at Violet's dinner table for a long scene that is so unpleasant that you want to put your fingers in your ears. Violet seats herself at the head of the table and begins an argument with Barbara so hate-filled and angry that we're not surprised when it ends with the two of them in a violent confrontation on the living room floor. The rest of the family is no better. Over the next few days, they take the opportunity to air their dirty laundry, so we get horrifying revelations of mistaken paternity, pedophilia, infidelity and even incest.

It is never a requirement that all movie characters must be likable, but there must be some emotional foothold for the audience. What did we do to deserve these people? While it's true that the familial bitterness is generational (the movie makes the abundantly clear) shouldn't there be someone with the sense to put it to an end? The family grudges and fights send the family members scattering back to their respective lives, leaving only Violet and Barbara. Both are husbandless and have the potential to find comfort in one another. But, it never happens. By the end, the one character we have come to sympathize with is Beverly. He has opted out of the family sickness and, much to our surprise, we kind of understand why.

*1/2 (of four)
32 out of 44 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
"August: Osage County" is the best ensemble of the year!
Clayton Davis4 October 2013
Before I even start to talk about John Wells' new film "August: Osage County," I have to say I've never seen the stage play or read it by writer Tracy Letts. Following the screening, I felt it was important to disclose. An all-star cast is assembled, all which have individual moments to shine, which is surprising with a cast this size, and for the most part, the film succeeds on multiple levels. Sure to be divisive, "August: Osage County" is tenacious and beautifully constructed. Soulful and unafraid to show the gritty and ugly of the American family, Wells' film is utterly compelling. A must-see for the awards season. An instant Oscar contender.

From the top to the bottom, this film exists and succeeds by its performances. At the top of the heap and best in show is the stunning and beautiful Oscar-winning actress Julia Roberts. Her turn as Barbara Weston is in the top three performances she's ever delivered. Roberts dives into herself in a way we haven't seen since "Erin Brockovich." The narrative fully turns on her character and in the final half of the film, she pulls the train through to the station. I'm incredibly impressed with her work. Roberts is a revelation and reminds the world how good she really is. A sure-fire Oscar contender.

As Violet Weston, a role played by Deanna Dunagan on Broadway, there were high expectations to see what 3-time Academy Award Winner Meryl Streep would bring to the role. For the past few years, I've begged for Streep to "dirty it up" and play a role like this. A drug-addicted matriarch who a gutter mouth lets Streep give a fresh take on a character. Her performance is middle of the road for what Streep has delivered in her career. That can mean different things to different people. Middle of the road for Streep could be the best of any actor. I walked out of the theater feeling the same way I felt following the end credits of "Doubt." Streep excels in many areas of acting, but I feel when it comes to stage adaptations to the big screen, Streep doesn't live in the character as comfortably as she would in any other role. There are times that the role does go a bit over-the-top. That being said, Streep is still plenty great as she's been in other roles as of late. She inhabits lots of Violet's beats and mannerisms and gives dynamite exchange with some of her co-stars. It's a performance that will surely land her another Best Actress nomination.

Trying to pick any of the supporting characters to single out is like trying to pick your favorite child. Margo Martindale as Mattie Fae is ballsy and spunky and its good to see an actor of her caliber finally getting a chance to rip into a role like this. Her character reveals the film's darkest secret which gives her an edge over some of her co- stars, which Wells directs masterfully with DP Adriano Goldman.

I could eat Benedict Cumberbatch up with a spoon. As "Little Charles," he definitely has the narrative's most sympathetic story but more importantly, in a film that is full of despicable people, he manages to pull the audience in to root for him, even when you know he's doing something terribly wrong.

I've longed for Juliette Lewis to get back in Oscar's graces following her nomination over twenty years ago in Martin Scorsese's "Cape Fear." She as dynamic as we've seen her in the last few years, delivering her best turn yet as Karen. A true professional. Ewan McGregor continues to elevate himself as one of our finest actors working today as Bill, Barbara's estranged husband. As someone who is on the opposite side of the rational spectrum when compared the Weston ladies, McGregor stands out as a positive take. Unfortunately, he only gets one scene to really let loose in a memorable manner.

I can recall being floored by the work of Julianne Nicholson in the little indie that no one saw, "Flannel Pajamas" nearly seven years ago. I've never fully revisited her work since despite stints on "Conviction" and "Law & Order: Criminal Intent." As Ivy, the one sister that stayed behind, Nicholson embraces her natural and simplistic mannerisms that give her role a much-needed arc in the narrative. In a perfect world, we would be looking at Julianne Nicholson for serious Oscar consideration.

Brief but all too clear as perfection, Sam Shepard ignites his brief screen time as Beverly Weston, the patriarch of our family. Same could be said for Misty Upham as Johnna, our Native American housekeeper sitting as a silent observer.

Academy Award winner Chris Cooper shines when he takes on sensitive and accessible performances. With a tough exterior but a soft and loving emotional center, Cooper acts as an sentimental pillar to our tale. If there is room for a man in an Oscar lineup from a film dominated by women, he is likely it.

Director John Wells has a strong hold on the material. He understands where he wants the narrative to go, putting an emphasis on the story and letting any directorial styles take a backseat. It's definitely appreciated in a story that has so many moving parts. Writer Tracy Letts adapts his own play and in the second half really stretches out his legs as the story takes shape for certain characters. The first thirty minutes are rough. The dialogue isn't as quick as snapping your finger. Some monologues run a little long and there are a pair of instances where I checked out of the story for a moment.

The Weinstein Company have quite a gem on their hands. Lots of heart and laughs, "August: Osage County" has the year's best cast ensembles and is one of the year's best films.

Read More of the Review @ (
88 out of 135 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Fine acting. Script is trash.
bighebeal5 January 2014
Warning: Spoilers
In the late 19th century a common playwriting trope was to build a play to moments of tremendous intensity where the star would astonish the audience with the brilliance of his or her acting. The plays had no real purpose other than to provide those moments; there was no dramatic core, no purpose to them other than that. Those kinds of plays, like "The Count of Monte Cristo", which O'Neill skewers in "Long Day's Journey Into Night", are dismissed today as tripe, as dated and manipulative nonsense.

"August: Osage County" is exactly that, only modern and written for an ensemble cast rather than for a single star. Sure, the acting is very good, but so what? Who cares? Where's the story? What's the point? Why are we spending time with these people?

Understand, my complaint is not that "August: Osage County" is depressing, it's that it's cheap. Many fine movies are miserably depressing, but they're honest, they're driven by something other than a desire to create 'actory' moments; "The Swimmer" comes to mind, as does "The Night Porter", and "Enemies: A Love Story", and "The Bicycle Thief", and "Ikiru"... This thing, on the other hand... it feels like Tracy Letts just piled misery upon misery upon misery for no reason other than his belief that that gets you taken seriously. And considering the awards the play received, he was right, which hardly speaks well for the state of dramatic criticism.

At one point (spoiler ahead), after he's already been larding the suffering on with a trowel for quite a while, there's a death scene -- and while watching it I just couldn't help myself, I laughed out loud.

Seriously, what is the point of this? In playwriting class, the first principle they teach is that "drama is the day the change occurred". In other words, if there is no chance of change, if the characters (at least the protagonist) are not wrestling with an inner conflict that could resolve itself several ways, then there is no drama. That's the case with "August: Osage County". You might as well be watching a B-Western for all the real depth there is to the characters. Each time you're introduced to a character (with one or two very minor exceptions) you know exactly who they are now and exactly who they'll be at the end of the movie. It's just 'sound and fury, signifying nothing'.

In a word, trash.
68 out of 109 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Why does anyone like this?
ixtar127 December 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Yes, the acting, top to bottom, is flawless, but to what end? Although it's being advertised as comedy it's drearily unfunny. It's creepily like watching a look-at-the-rubes in Oklahoma, freak show. A miserable collection of mean, addicted, distraught, and depressed family, which as individuals, might be believable, but as a group is preposterous. You wouldn't want to spend five minutes with any of them, let alone two hours. And, no, it has nothing to say about addiction or family. It seems to have little to say about anything except that the people on screen can't stand to be with each other any longer than they have to, and after this they won't see each other again. Lots of fun for the cast, and maybe even an Oscar or two, hopefully at least a nomination for Julianne Nicholson. No fun at all for the audience. This won a Pulitzer and Tonys? I can't understand what anyone sees in this piece of A list dreck.
100 out of 166 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews