One of the great things about family dramas adapted for the screen is that if they’re well done, you leave the theater thanking God for the family you’ve got, no matter how dysfunctional.
Yes, that is indeed the case with “August: Osage County,” directed by John Wells and based on Tracy Letts’ Tony award-winning play.
It stars Meryl Streep in what’s perhaps her most over-the-top performance of a character who is herself over the top, so it’s completely appropriate. Here, Streep is playing a character who is actually giving a performance. This fact actually fuels the resentment of Julia Roberts’ character. It’s almost as if Streep is feeding Roberts in their scenes together. It totally works and both are fantastic. In short, there’s a lot of swearing going on.
The entire film is really an actor’s showcase. I can picture John Wells shouting, “Action!” and just letting the cameras roll while these great and seasoned actors just do their thing. Ironically, Juliette Lewis gets some of the film’s best lines. Chris Cooper gives another performance of a man with a lot bubbling beneath the surface. Cooper is a master at creating this veneer that’s meant to conceal, yet actually reveals what we suspect.
Ewan McGregor, Sam Shepard and numerous others all turn in great supporting nods that keep the family drama alternately heartbreaking and often hilarious. Ultimately, the film is a comedic drama … or is it a dramatic comedy?
Either way, “August: Osage County” is a great film about families, the secrets they keep and how we sometimes wish we could actually pick our families … only to realize that despite whether we can pick the people in our lives or not … we’re still all too human.