Mobile  |  About us  |  Photos  |  Videos  |  Subscriptions  |  RSS Feeds  |  Today's Paper  |  Classifieds  |  Contact Us
The Daily Star
THURSDAY, 24 APR 2014
03:57 AM Beirut time
Weather    
Beirut
18 °C
Blom Index
BLOM
1,214.01down
Film
Follow this story Print RSS Feed ePaper share this
Streep holds nothing back in brutal family drama
Associated Press
Weston is simply one of the most spectacularly damaged characters in memory.
Weston is simply one of the most spectacularly damaged characters in memory.
A+ A-

NEWYORK: Planning some family holiday dinners? Worried that folks might not get along, that festering tensions might surface, that people might get tipsy and say too much?

Well, here’s an idea: First, go see “August: Osage County,” the blistering film adaptation of the Pulitzer-winning Tracy Letts play starring Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts.

Because once you’ve witnessed the rollicking, vicious family dinner that’s the dramatic centerpiece of this movie, you’ll know you’re safe. No family meal of your own will ever seem truly unpleasant after you’ve witnessed this scene. Festering tensions? Try brutal wounds, caused by the bitterest of insults lobbed across the table with those mashed potatoes. The kind of insults that only those closest to you – we’re talking family – could ever dream up.

It is, of course, delicious that the most biting of these insults come from the mouth of the one and only Streep, who holds absolutely nothing back in a performance that could be called showy – except that’s it’s so compelling and also deeply faithful to the script. Violet Weston, the 65-year-old matriarch of an Oklahoma clan, is simply one of the most spectacularly damaged characters in memory. And as written by the hugely talented Letts, who has both playwriting and acting Tonys to go with his Pulitzer, she’s someone you’ll want to meet – if only once.

Not that “August: Osage County,” directed by John Wells, works best as a movie, even with a screenplay by Letts himself. Those who saw the 2007 Broadway production will likely recall a nearly perfect theatrical experience, one that left you drained but grateful after three hours.

It feels less naturally suited to film, though if you haven’t seen the play, you might not notice. And a brief final scene feels tacked on for cinematic purposes. But these are not fatal flaws.

Virtually all the action takes place in one home, in the heart of the Oklahoma plains, stifling in the August heat. It belongs to Violet and her husband, Beverly, a 69-year-old poet and raging alcoholic.

“My wife takes pills and I drink,” he says. “That’s the bargain we’ve struck.”

And, boy, does Violet take pills. It’s a shock to see the regal Streep looking this way: wrinkled and pale, with a craggy fuzz of gray hair peeking out of a dark wig, a result of chemotherapy for mouth cancer. She has stains on her baggy sweater and can’t keep her balance. She still smokes, and tufts of that smoke linger in the stifling air, because she doesn’t believe in air conditioning. Plastic shades are taped shut, blocking out natural light.

Extended family is summoned home when emergency strikes: Beverly’s disappearance. All are forced to sit together, eat together and, of course, face some serious family truths. The nature of those truths won’t be revealed here, except for the truth that it would be hard to assemble a more accomplished cast.

Margo Martindale, especially, is pitch-perfect as Violet’s sister Mattie Fae, at once boisterous, flighty, warm and witheringly insensitive to her awkward adult son, Charlie (Benedict Cumberbatch). Or, as Mom calls him, Little Charlie, which should tell you a lot.

Also wonderful is Chris Cooper as Mattie Fae’s long-suffering husband and Julianne Nicholson as the lonely and misunderstood Ivy, one of Violet’s daughters. The top-flight cast also includes Sam Shepard, Juliette Lewis, Ewan McGregor, Abigail Breslin and Dermot Mulroney. (And it’s co-produced by George Clooney, no less.)

Much depends, though, on the dynamic between Violet and daughter Barbara (Roberts), who’s in the throes of a disintegrating marriage. This is one of the meatiest roles Roberts has had in a good long time, and she handles it with an admirable lack of vanity. Gone is that high-wattage Roberts smile. Barbara is weary, bitter and, at times, shrewish.

Watch her in that dinner scene, trying to dodge her mother’s verbal missiles, until she no longer can. Come to think of it, though, watch absolutely everyone in that scene.

And then plan your own family dinner, secure in the knowledge that it could never, ever be as bad.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 23, 2013, on page 16.
Home Film
 
     
 
United States of America
Advertisement
Comments  

Your feedback is important to us!

We invite all our readers to share with us their views and comments about this article.

Disclaimer: Comments submitted by third parties on this site are the sole responsibility of the individual(s) whose content is submitted. The Daily Star accepts no responsibility for the content of comment(s), including, without limitation, any error, omission or inaccuracy therein. Please note that your email address will NOT appear on the site.

comments powered by Disqus
Advertisement


Baabda 2014
Advertisement
Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on Linked In Follow us on Google+ Subscribe to our Live Feed
Multimedia
Images  
Pictures of the day
A selection of images from around the world- Wednesday, April 23, 2014
View all view all
Advertisement
Rami G. Khouri
Rami G. Khouri
Israel shows Zionism’s true colors
Michael Young
Michael Young
For Christians, blessed are the dividers
David Ignatius
David Ignatius
An Iran deal is close, but we’re not there yet
View all view all
Advertisement
cartoon
 
Click to View Articles
 
 
News
Business
Opinion
Sports
Culture
Technology
Entertainment
Privacy Policy | Anti-Spamming Policy | Disclaimer | Copyright Notice
© 2014 The Daily Star - All Rights Reserved - Designed and Developed By IDS