August: Osage County at Cinema Arts Festival Goes From Darkly Funny to Just Plain Sad
There's a story, possibly apocryphal, that someone once asked the American playwright and actor Sam Shepard why he always writes about family, to which he replied, "What else is there?"
This notion of family being everything, all-encompassing, greater than the sum of its parts (if only those parts could come together) seems to be the inspiration behind Tracy Letts' Pulitzer Prize-winning and Tony Award-winning play August: Osage County that has now been turned into a feature film directed by John Wells and starring one hell of an ensemble cast. And though the story is clearly engrossing enough and the stage dialogue realistic enough to garner the accolades it received, the movie version is brought down by too much heavy, heavy drama packed into a two-hour bitchfest led by Meryl Streep, with backup bitching from Julia Roberts.
August: Osage County is playing November 8 at 6:15 at Sundance 8 as part of the Cinema Arts Festival. It will be released nationally in December.
Synopsis: The plot actually starts out darkly funny, which makes the familial airing of grievances and family secrets later in the film all the more unexpected and sickening. By the end, it's tough to remember why you were ever laughing in the first place.
The story is of the Weston family, helmed by the alcoholic but saintly father, Bev (Sam Shepard) and his wife, Violet (Streep), who is slowly succumbing to mouth cancer and pill addiction, but not going down without a fight. After Bev disappears and is later found dead, the result of a suicide, the extended family descends upon the spacious but stuffy Weston home in the barren plains of Oklahoma.The oldest daughter, Barbara (Roberts) arrives from Colorado with her estranged husband (Ewan McGregor) and 14-year-old daughter (Abigail Breslin), who is enacting a rebellious streak in response to her parents' marital troubles. The middle daughter, Ivy (Julianne Nichols), remained in Oklahoma to take care of her parents and carry on a relationship with her cousin, "Little" Charlie (a woefully miscast Benedict Cumberbatch), the son of Violet's sister Maddie Fae (Margo Martindale) and her husband, Charlie (Chris Cooper). The youngest daughter, Karen (Juliette Lewis) is the last to return to homestead with her older, suave fiance (Dermot Mulroney), who may be a hitman, in tow.
If this sounds like a sad but humorous assemblage, that's because it is, right up until it's not anymore. Right up until the drug addicted matriarch starts divulging family secrets and pushing all the right buttons in a seeming attempt to make everyone else just as miserable as she is. Along the way, there's suicide, affairs, incestuous relationships, sexual assault, drug addiction, paternity questions, dementia, abuse, promiscuity and enough close up still shots to make the Days of Our Lives cast envious.