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"August: Osage County" Film is Camp Classic

‘August: Osage County’ Review: Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts Go at It Like Godzilla vs. Megalon

by Alonso Duralde

The big-screen adaptation of Tracy Letts’ hit play is never dull, but it plays more like a camp-classic-in-waiting than a Pulitzer-winner.

“Don’t get all Carson McCullers on me,” snaps Barbara (Julia Roberts) to one of her over-dramatizing sisters, but that’s a stone that really shouldn’t be thrown within the glass house that is “August: Osage County,” a movie that feels like a stew of McCullers and Tennessee Williams and Beth Henley and Robert Harling and countless other writers who have assembled the unhappy members of a dysfunctional family under one roof for subsequent fireworks of recrimination and regret.

To get the most enjoyment out of “August,” it’s best to think of it less as an adaptation of a Tony Award– and Pulitzer Prize-winning play or as a screen adaptation of playwright Tracy Letts (the previous ones have been the very intense “Killer Joe” and “Bug”) and more like an all-star opportunity for bad behavior, shocking revelations and even a cat fight.

Director John Wells (the TV mogul’s previous screen directorial credit was 2010’s “The Company Men”) turns the piece’s dark, lurid humor up to 11, and it’s up to this generation’s greatest screen actress to find the honesty and the power amongst all the showboating: I’m referring, of course, to Margo Martindale, who nails her scenes as Mattie Fae.

Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts are a hoot as well, don’t get me wrong, but they tear into each other, their co-stars and the scenery with all the reticence of Godzilla and Megalon doing battle in the Tokyo suburbs.

The three Weston sisters — and at least since Chekhov, stories like this almost always seem to revolve around three sisters — return to their sprawling Oklahoma home upon the disappearance and subsequent death of the patriarch, Beverly (Sam Shepard). Dutiful Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) stayed home and bore the brunt of tending to the family’s monster mommy, the pill-popping, blunt-talking Violet (Streep).

Flighty Karen (Juliette Lewis) dashed off to Florida, where she’s been involved with a series of questionable men; Steve (Dermot Mulroney), her current fiancée, has accompanied her to the lion’s den. And then there’s Barbara, who’s got a troubled marriage to an intellectual (Ewan McGregor as Bill) and a strained relationship with her daughter (Abigail Breslin as Jean) — in other words, she’s turning out just like dear old mom.

Between the heat, the proximity and Violet’s viciously tart tongue, it doesn’t take long before the sins of the past and present (and maybe even a few future ones) come roaring up, leading to a post-funeral dinner sequence where truths are told, dishes are broken and Roberts gives fellow Oscar-winner Streep a flying tackle that the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling would admire.

“August: Osage County” is certainly never boring, but it almost always veers in the direction of diva silliness rather than of gravitas — one of Streep’s climactic scenes should probably feel like a soul punch, but it either accidentally or intentionally calls to mind the camp classics “Mommie Dearest” and “Valley of the Dolls.”

With Streep and Roberts going so broad and so big, the rest of the cast wisely underplays to varying effect. Nicholson and Chris Cooper (as Violet’s brother-in-law) both deliver intensely slow burns that lead to third-act explosions, while McGregor retreats to that bland place he almost always goes when doing an American accent.

But then there’s Martindale, as Violet’s sister — she’s the nicer sibling, yes, but she’s got a temperament and some secrets of her own. Whether she’s sharing a nasty chortle with Streep over some old family photos or grounding one of the story’s soapier twists with a gutting, heartfelt confession, she does the most to tether this tale to reality.

by Anonymousreply 9111/13/2013

I saw it yesterday at the Ft. Worth Lonestar Film Festival and I'd pretty much agree with this assessment: the script seems like a parody of O'Neill and Williams, where the writer had a checklist of clichés that he ticked off as he wrote; the direction is flat and uninspired; the cast mostly screams at each other for 2 plus hours, but it's Meryl who gives the worst performance, a ridiculously over-the-top piece of work and one of her mast mannered performances ever. This is one time when the Academy can quite comfortably NOT nominate La Streep.

by Anonymousreply 111/10/2013

Liza Minnelli should have gotten the Streep role.

by Anonymousreply 211/10/2013

Now I want to see it more than ever.

by Anonymousreply 311/10/2013

I've tried watching "The Hours" this week and I'm finding Streep very, very mannered.

by Anonymousreply 411/10/2013

Patty Duke should have gotten the Meryl role

by Anonymousreply 511/10/2013

R1 = Glenn

by Anonymousreply 611/10/2013

Patty Duke or Grace Zabriskie would have been great.

by Anonymousreply 711/10/2013

Trish Van Devere should have gotten the Meryl role.

by Anonymousreply 811/10/2013

[quote]by Alonso Duralde

does any one know if he is documented?

by Anonymousreply 911/10/2013

Kate Jackson should have got the Meryl role.

by Anonymousreply 1011/10/2013

Priscilla Barnes should've gotten the Meryl role.

by Anonymousreply 1111/10/2013

Joe Manganiello was 1st choice and would've played Violet, but his schedule didn't permit it.

by Anonymousreply 1211/10/2013

Tanya Roberts should've... Ok. No.

by Anonymousreply 1311/10/2013

I think Alonzo's gone overboard trying to emotionally distance himself from the subject matter. I bet after he finished this review he threw up and cried till he got a migraine and then scheduled an emergency phone session with his shrink.

by Anonymousreply 1411/10/2013

Gabourey Sibide should have gotten the Meryl role.

by Anonymousreply 1511/10/2013

Ernest Borgnine should have gotten the Meryl role.

by Anonymousreply 1611/10/2013

Ernest Borgnine should've got shot out of a cannon.

by Anonymousreply 1711/10/2013

Lora Meredith should've gotten the Meryl role.

by Anonymousreply 1811/10/2013

Juliette Lewis should have got the Juliette Lewis role, oh wait

by Anonymousreply 1911/10/2013

[all posts by racist flame bait troll removed, ISP notified with full text of all posts.]

by Anonymousreply 2111/10/2013

Meryl's performances of late have been crossing into caricature territory. She's getting less and less subtle as she ages.

by Anonymousreply 2211/10/2013

[quote] how'd that happen?

I dropped out.

by Anonymousreply 2311/10/2013

Did he write for AfterElton at some point?

by Anonymousreply 2411/10/2013

r20 is extremely self-involved=who cares what you ALWAYS say?

by Anonymousreply 2511/10/2013

Duralde is a great big fat person

by Anonymousreply 2611/10/2013

"I've never heard of this person. His review looks like it was written by a poorly educated community college student."

You sound like a snob. And I'm not sure why you think he is "poorly educated" just because he wrote something you didn't like.

by Anonymousreply 2711/10/2013

I want to see it, even thought I'm not overly crazy about the leads.

by Anonymousreply 2811/10/2013

The movie has been getting lukewarm reviews since it debuted at some film festival back in September. They've got a turkey on their hands. And the Streep troll swore Meryl was getting her fourth Oscar for this.

Margot will be the lone acting nominee. And the only major nomination the film gets.

by Anonymousreply 2911/10/2013

r21 he reviews movies for The Wrap and he's part of the What the Flick review team. They review movies and television shows like Mad Men, GOT, Breaking Bad, Homeland and Walking Dead.

by Anonymousreply 3011/10/2013

I rarely defend Streep Troll, but most Oscar prognosticators assumed this would be an easy Oscar win for Streep based on the role.

Now she's fighting for fifth place, behind Blanchett, Bullock, Dench and Emma Thompson. And the only reason she's still in contention at all is that Meryl has a long history of earning filler nominations on name alone.

by Anonymousreply 3111/10/2013

I thought it was tremendous.

Phuck Philomena! The Wolf of Wall Streer can lick my cooch! This one is the reel deal.

by Anonymousreply 3211/10/2013

If R1's assessment is accurate, are we entering an era in which Meryl will become the new Susan Hayward?

Meryl in a remake of I WANT TO LIVE? The lines start forming at the box office NOW!

by Anonymousreply 3311/10/2013

What is Emma Thompson starring in? Where's Oprah on that list?

by Anonymousreply 3411/10/2013

Emma is in "Saving Mr. Banks," and Oprah will be campaigned as Supporting Actress, not as Lead.

by Anonymousreply 3511/10/2013

Emma in Mrs. Banks, Oprah is supporting

by Anonymousreply 3611/10/2013

And I like Forest Whitaker and Leo Dicaprio.

by Anonymousreply 3711/10/2013

I will not be doing any press for this film.

by Anonymousreply 3811/11/2013

Patty Duke? What is this, 1973? They actually want people to buy tickets to see this.

by Anonymousreply 3911/11/2013

the Patty Duke thing is a troll/DL inside joke thingy r39

by Anonymousreply 4011/11/2013

r40 I don't know about you, but when I wrote it I was serious nothing to do with the troll DL inside thingy

by Anonymousreply 4111/11/2013

The only actress coming out of this one with a nomination is Margo Martindale in supporting.

The fifth place - after Blanchett, Dench, Bullock, and Thompson, is now up for grabs. Too bad Alfre's role in 12 Years is solid supporting, or she'd be a shoo-in.

by Anonymousreply 4211/11/2013

The producers wanted Lucy for the role that Ms. Streep took, but Gary talked her out of it.

by Anonymousreply 4311/11/2013

r42, my fingers are crossed that it's Julia Louis-Dreyfuss; she's magnificent in "Enough Said."

by Anonymousreply 4411/11/2013

Marni Nixon should have played (or at least dubbed) Streep's role.

by Anonymousreply 4511/11/2013

[quote]I don't know about you, but when I wrote it I was serious nothing to do with the troll DL inside thingy

Exactly, Patti Duke has equated herself quite well in her career. With all due respect to Mrs. Gummer, nothing she has done in her work is this subtle and heart breaking as the scene at 14:55

by Anonymousreply 4611/11/2013

R46 exactly

by Anonymousreply 4711/11/2013

Alonso Duralde is quite well known as a film critic. He's also a hot daddy bear.

by Anonymousreply 4811/11/2013

R44, I think Louis-Dreyfuss will take the slot which was assumed was MS'. And Gandolfini will be nominated in Supporting. A lot of people love that movie and there's a groundswell of support to give it recognition at awards time.

by Anonymousreply 4911/11/2013

I will definitely see this one. It looks like a hoot.

by Anonymousreply 5011/11/2013

You're forgetting Amy Adams in American Hustle. If the film has good reviews I think she's in.

by Anonymousreply 5111/11/2013

I read a review that claimed J Law blows Adams off the screen and that Adams' role is borderline supporting, anyway.

by Anonymousreply 5211/11/2013

r33, funny you should mention Susan Hayward; Meryl's performance here totally had me thinking of Susan, especially in her more campy moments in "I'll Cry Tomorrow." (Of course, Susan DID get an Oscar nod for that performance, so....)

by Anonymousreply 5311/11/2013

Lynn Stairmaster swearing Louis-Dreyfuss will be nominated for a Best Actress Oscar means it will never happen.

by Anonymousreply 5411/11/2013

Why does this movie sound like "Steel Magnolias", another piece of guilty-pleasure, witless trash?

by Anonymousreply 5511/11/2013

Because, r55, that's precisely what it is. Only worse.

by Anonymousreply 5611/11/2013

Sigh. In retrospect, I wish Glenn Close had gotten the Meryl Streep role.

by Anonymousreply 5711/11/2013

I already turned down the role you're playing, M.

by Anonymousreply 5811/11/2013

And yet Duralde's review is listed as FRESH in Rotten Tomatoes. Overall 71% so far, although that needle is bound to move up and down for the next month.

by Anonymousreply 5911/11/2013

Lucy had the Meryl role but Gary talked her out of it.

by Anonymousreply 6011/11/2013

R60, meet R43.

by Anonymousreply 6111/11/2013

Oh, shut the fuck up, R54, I'm entitled to my opinion.

I'm hearing someone named Paulina Garcia is pretty stunning in a Chilean film called Gloria and she could end up with a nomination. And before you start shrieking how impossible that would be remember Norma Aleandro and Fernanda Montenegro.

by Anonymousreply 6211/11/2013

Jessica Lange should have gotten the Merly role. Seriously.

by Anonymousreply 6311/11/2013

What R63 said. I would have loved to have seen that.

by Anonymousreply 6411/11/2013

This sounds like a Lifetime movie blown up to ridiculous proportions.

by Anonymousreply 6511/11/2013

Jane Fonda should've gotten the Meryl role.

by Anonymousreply 6611/11/2013

Agree, although I've nothing bad to say about Meryl, she just isn't crazy enough for this role. This is an Estelle Parsons, Geraldine page type role. So who so you cast for the movie version? At least Lange....Ellen Burstyn would have been great although maybe too old for the producers but I don't think so....

by Anonymousreply 6711/11/2013

But someone else was saying Meryl and Julia were chewing up which is it? Too crazy or not crazy enough?

by Anonymousreply 6811/11/2013

Sissy Spacek can play crazy eccentric like nobody's business.

by Anonymousreply 6911/11/2013

Meryl has jumped the shark.

by Anonymousreply 7011/11/2013

Meryl should've shit in a sink. Audiences really like that!

by Anonymousreply 7111/11/2013

[all posts by tedious troll removed.]

by Anonymousreply 7211/11/2013

[all posts by racist flame bait troll removed, ISP notified with full text of all posts.]

by Anonymousreply 7311/11/2013

Add to that Jessica's own past with Sam Shepard, which would've added layers to the film (even though Violet and Beverly only have 1 scene together).

by Anonymousreply 7411/11/2013

I admit that I know little about this piece, but from the review posted by OP, I see several parallels with "Crimes of the Heart." There was a piece which was a brilliant play, yet was nearly ruined on the big screen.

by Anonymousreply 7511/11/2013

I can't wait to see this movie. A cat fight at Christmas? Sounds like yet another box office success for Meryl and Julia.

No to Jessica Lange in big screen adaptations - she is box office poison and studios will not give her any lead role.

by Anonymousreply 7611/11/2013

Crimes of the heart was awful movie....DK was the worst.

by Anonymousreply 7711/11/2013

Do you think Susan Lucci could have done it justice?

by Anonymousreply 7811/11/2013

Not Susan Lucci, but maybe Kim Zimmer.

by Anonymousreply 7911/11/2013

Bette Midler should have gotten the role.

by Anonymousreply 8011/11/2013

Marvin's Room also sucked. Just throwing that in there. These movies are not art - they're as cookie cutter as a Marvel movie.

by Anonymousreply 8111/11/2013

The Meryl role in the paly wasn't even that interesting. The only exciting thing was wondering if the aged actress would drop dead from climbing that awful house set with four flights of stairs ten times a show.

by Anonymousreply 8211/11/2013

How is Margo Martindale?

by Anonymousreply 8411/13/2013

r85, she's good; she, Julianne Nicholson and Chris Cooper give the best performances in the film.

by Anonymousreply 8511/13/2013

Sounds like removing the proscenium arch exposed this material for what it really is, y'know, for you slow people in the back.

by Anonymousreply 8611/13/2013

R87 LOL I was just reading a paper for school about stage reconstructions and this made me pee laughing.

by Anonymousreply 8711/13/2013

Don't forget Iron Fucking Weed. That was a big piece of shit. The shittiest shit that ever shat.

by Anonymousreply 8811/13/2013

I'm glad I'm sticking with Broadway...

by Anonymousreply 8911/13/2013

I'd still like to know what an Englishman and a Scot are doing in a movie set in Oklahoma.

by Anonymousreply 9011/13/2013
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