Film Review: AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY

Directed by: John Wells
Written By Tracy Letts (based on his play)
Starring: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Margo Martindale, Julianne Nicholson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis

Sometimes I wonder if an all-star cast like this one does more harm than good. If each actor brings so history with him, that is what we focus on. You can hear the audience murmur: “Oh Meryl doing a Oklahoma accent; Oh, that’s Sherlock Holmes; Oh that’s the doctor from MASTERS OF SEX; Oh, there’s Mags from JUSTIFIED. And on and on. There are no unfamiliar faces here and perhaps that is the primary problem. The distracting aspect of AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY.
Meanwhile the story continues and our interest in the “stars” overtakes our interest in the story.

I saw AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY on Broadway with Estelle Parsons playing the Meryl Streep role. But with that exception, the rest of the cast mostly came from Chicago’s Steppenwolf production. I had no associations to call up with this ensemble and didn’t waste time identifying them. It was a long play, far longer than this movie. A bit better perhaps, but not much.

This is a movie that has not commanded much respect. It is certainly not the best movie I’ve seen recently, but it is far from the worst. Julia Roberts gives her best performance ever IMHO. She plays it straight and plain and clean. All the performances are good. If they seem over-the-top, well that is the story. There used to be more stories like this one on screen. Look back to movies like HOME FROM THE HILL, SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS or the films of Douglas Sirk. Perhaps we have become overly infatuated with slim stories with terse dialog and small emotions. This one harks back to another era. It is not perfect but it is a well made, decent movie.