News

REVIEW: ‘August’ brings bigs stars to the family table

REVIEW: ‘August’ brings bigs stars to the family table

This image released by The Weinstein Company shows, from left, Meryl Streep, Julianne Nicholson and Juliette Lewis in a scene from "August: Osage County." Photo: Associated Press/The Weinstein Company/Claire Folger

Genre: Drama | Run Time: 121 min | Rated: R
Director: John Wells | Starring: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Dermot Mulroney
Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor, Margo Martindale, Sam Shepart, Juliette Lewis

By: George Wolf

So, how was your family get-together over the Holidays?

If secrets and dinner plates weren’t tossed about like a salad dressed with obscenities, you’ve got nothing on the Westons, the dysfunctional brood at the heart of August: Osage County.

Screenwriter Tracy Letts adapts his own Pulitzer Prize-winning play, and the sublime wordplay in his dark, rich comedy is brought to life via an exceptional ensemble cast. Only tentative direction from John Wells holds the film back from its full potential.

Meryl Streep rules the roost as family matriarch Violet Weston, who..ahem…”welcomes” her children, siblings and assorted other team members back home after a family crisis.

There isn’t much time spent on niceties before the barbs start flying. Old wounds are exposed, and new secrets are uncovered as the family struggles to deal with the effect their past has on their present.

At the heart of the conflict is Barbara, the oldest Weston daughter, fully realized by Julia Roberts in, hands down, the performance of her career.

Barbara’s contempt for her mother is on hilariously full display, while bubbling underneath is the fear of becoming her mother, a fear she tries to hide through angry outbursts. Stealing a movie from Meryl Streep is no easy feat, but Roberts does it.

In fact, the film is wall to wall with fine performers, including Chris Cooper, Sam Shepard, Juliette Lewis, Ewan McGregor, and Margo Martindale (who shows a fantastic chemistry with Streep, giving their scenes together an added air of mischief).

The problem is, director John Wells seems a bit intimidated by who, and what, he’s working with. The characters are too often on their own island, as when a soap opera cuts from a close up of one deep sigh to a completely different storyline.

These characters are under one roof for much of the movie, yet we don’t feel the cohesiveness of any shared connections, just a series of histrionics often left swinging in the venomous breeze.

It’s not the material. Letts also wrote Bug and Killer Joe, both adapted into brilliant movies by the skills of legendary director William Friedkin. Wells, a veteran TV director, doesn’t provide the nuance needed to make a successful cinematic leap.

August: Osage County boasts all the ingredients, and is certainly entertaining, but ultimately feels like a missed opportunity for something special.

Verdict 3 Stars

Read more movie reviews at MaddWolf.com.

Recent Headlines

in Entertainment

Today in entertainment history: March 30

FILE - In this March 2, 2014 file photo, Bono arrives at the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. A New York City doctor says U2 singer Bono suffered multiple fractures and had to have two surgeries after his weekend bicycle accident. Orthopedic trauma surgeon Dr. Dean Lorich says Bono underwent a five-hour surgery on his elbow in which three plates and 18 screws were inserted on Sunday night. Bono had another surgery to repair a fracture to his left pinkie on Monday. Lorich says Bono will need therapy but a full recovery is expected.

A look back at some of Hollywood's most memorable headlines.

in Entertainment

This weekend in entertainment history

rainman

A look back on some of Hollywood's most memorable headlines.

in National

Amanda Knox murder conviction overturned

FILE - In this Jan. 31, 2014, file photo, Amanda Knox prepares to leave the set following a television interview in New York. Knox is engaged to Colin Sutherland, a musician who recently moved to Seattle from New York, a person close to the Knox family confirmed for The Associated Press. Knox’s murder conviction in the 2007 stabbing of her roommate has been reinstated by an Italian court, but the former college exchange student maintains her innocence and vows she won’t willingly go back to Italy. Both Knox and Sutherland are 27. No wedding date had been set.

Italy's highest court has overturned the murder conviction against Amanda Knox, bringing to a definitive end the high-profile case.