Monday, 19 May 2014

August Osage County: Blu Ray Review

August Osage County: Blu Ray Review

Rating: M
Released by Roadshow Home Ent

If you think your family gathering at Christmas is bad, you ain't seen nothing compared to August: Osage County.

Based on the stage play of the same name, it stars Meryl Streep as Violet, the monstrous matriarch of the Weston family. Struck with mouth cancer and addicted to pills, she finds her world comes unstuck when her husband Beverly (played by Sam Shepard) disappears without warning one day.

As the disparate family gathers to help the search, tensions from the past simmer and boil over, causing more anguish than any normal family gathering would cause - and Violet revels in them, spewing forth toxic bile on her own family...

For Julia Roberts' Barbara, her return to the homestead brings into sharp focus her separation from her husband Charlie (McGregor) and her distance from her daughter (Breslin) as well as the resentment from her sister Ivy (Nicholson) who's been forced to stay home all these years. Equally her other sister Karen (Juliette Lewis) breezes in her with her latest squeeze (Dermot Mulroney) causing more divides within the group. Add into that mix, Violet's very own sister Mattie Fae, who detests her son Little Charles, much to the growing chagrin of her own husband Charles (Cooper), and you can see how the roof is ready to explode in this mid-Western American powderkeg.

August: Osage County is a battering experience, a difficult film to sympathise with, presided as it is by the towering monster that is Violet. In some scenes, Streep's character positively chews out the scenery on display (and veers dangerously close into over-acting when compared to others in this troupe); while in other moments, this drug-addled poisonous snake is possessed of such insights that she can destroy anyone else on the screen. And it's the slightly-over-the-top nature of her turn that makes August: Osage County such a polarising experience as it blisters through such an affliction of meanness from its lead - even if the familiarity of family gatherings and meal-times with relatives proves a little too close to the knuckle.

Against everyone else, Streep fully owns her time on screen; but Julia Roberts comes close to matching her with a growing frustration that anyone forced to confront a sick relative / frustrating family member can relate to. Of the men on show, Cumberbatch seems to be woefully miscast as the clumsy halfwit, suffering from awkward guilt, Mulroney is nothing short of a sleaze and only Cooper (and Shepard in his brief scenes at the start) find the backbone of character to shine. In particular, Cooper's moment to stand tall against Mattie Fae's continuing barbs is devastatingly well done as Charles decides enough is enough - with just a few words and some acting, he delivers a punch that carries more emotion and conveys more weight than Streep's juddering harpy presents all the way through.

That's the thing with August: Osage County; it's almost unrelenting in its dysfunctional vitriol that you completely understand why the characters gradually leave as the venomous barbs begin to hit home. There's no reason to support a monster and there's no feeling in the audience that doing so is a remotely rewarding experience.

But that also doesn't make for a comfortable experience as the vile Violet lashes out and there's little spark as the disparate cast come and go; the character arcs aren't as rewarding as perhaps they may be in their stage versions, with just leaving (Exeunt omnes) being the MO that's overused - the overall feeling in August: Osage County is more one of it being there to shock than anything else - despite there being sadness lurking in Violet's background, and despite Streep's at times OTT turn, there's little to care about as this family implodes.

Extras: An evening with, Deleted scenes, Audio commentary


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