(Julia Roberts) Barbara Weston leans like a weeping tree on her usual acting quirks in AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY. While her mother (Streep) Violet Weston rages on a pilgrimage of self destruction through pills and cancer while sipping her own venom as her wounded family gape at the sidelines waiting for an exit. The setup screams stage work, no one dares leave their marks and while Streep’s performance is somewhat impressive, there is very little likable about her character to warrant watching. Like her daughters, it’s a relief to finally leave the house.
(Sam Shepard) Beverly is a stoic soul that has endured much during his marriage to Violet, which he tolerates by near constant drinking. His real marriage to alcohol finally loses it’s thrill and after hiring an Native American woman to care for his dying, mean spirited wife. Beverly promptly disappears citing poetry before drowning himself in a quiet, still lake. It’s here that the charm leaves the stage with Shepard’s departure.
Out comes the cruelty of Virginia Wolfe which Violet calls upon when proclaiming that Elizabeth Taylor was the one woman who was beautiful without makeup, but she still wore a ton. Violet is a terrific pill popping drug addict and angry to the ninths. The excuse is that life was hard. When her daughters return with husbands and beaus in tow, her captive audience has arrived and very spiteful nonsense from the past and present will be voiced until the curtains close.
The family ensemble seems to walk on, almost stumbling, especially when (Benedict Cumberbatch) Little Charles Aiken arrives via Greyhound. Late for the funeral he is near tears or fear of what is to come? Benedict is alarmingly terrible as Little Charles. So affected and contrived is his performance, that I was nearly convinced it could be a joke or an autistic reveal of his character. Charles is slow or kind hearted, which in this family is pinned as a loser. Yet not to worry, for Charles is tickling his families first cousin Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) so there is some kick in him.
Julia drives in with (Ewan) Bill her estranged husband and their cliched angry teenage daughter reluctantly in tow. Ewan does his usual amiable skew of the tortured American husband, then it’s off to the bewildered Juliette Lewis and her sports car driving, pot smoking real estate fiancé. Juliette is flotsam in the family river of glib angst. She scrunches her face in fear and confusion chasing survival, trading her fading sexuality for lies and security. It’s another sad life with a trail well rode.
The dining table is the set for verbal senseless torture. Where Violet gathers her steam and drugs to revel in her pain and watching her squirming family. It’s a trail of impotent accusations finally leading to the reveal that Little Charles and Ivy are not kissing cousins, but actually brother and sister. (Sam) Beverly had a wandering eye years ago while on a binge one night and decided to not wander farther than his wife’s sister. This breaks the veil of believability for me. Jumping one train wreak for another has got to be the dumbest leap of faith. At least Bill had the common sense to jump ship for a younger, kinder boat when he leaves Barbara (Julia).
So Little Charles is bedding his sister Ivy and when she finds out, it doesn’t really deter her. They are still off to New York and sibling bliss. Obviously anything is better than the shambles of their family home. Streep delivers though it’s rather irritating to watch. The stilted performances of the cast never delivers the family connection or any connection. It’s obvious from the beginning no one will be left. Violet is stranded with her Indian house maid, who if she wasn’t being paid would run for the reservation. Away from the crazy white folks.
The film never transcends the stage restraints and the tit for tat dialogue breaks down quickly becoming silly and infantile. There is no real purpose or meaning behind the weekend verbal carnage of August. Other than it’s acknowledging we do all die, often painfully.
While I didn’t hate the movie, because it was a relief from the constant serial killing, superhero, franchise trilogies currently being dropped from the film industry. It was not possible to like, August:Osage County.