Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

December 26, 2013

Movie Review: August: Osage County

Steve Woodhouse

Knoxville — If the holiday season makes you wonder about your family, “August: Osage County” will help put your mind at ease, with the reality that things can always be worse. 

The film is about an extraordinarily dysfunctional Oklahoma family reunited for the funeral of its patriarch. Sisters Barbara (Julia Roberts), Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) and Karen (Juliette Lewis) are reunited, along with their mother, Violet (Meryl Streep) after years apart. We soon discover that Violet is a cancer patient, drug addict and has a wealth of mental/emotional issues, all of which come to a head at a family dinner. Meanwhile, each one of the daughters is fighting a battle on her own before coming together to deal with their mother.

This is an extremely uncomfortable movie to watch for many reasons. Streep is her usual, loud and commanding presence on screen, but amplified to the max with a character that has no sense of decency or boundaries. You will be shocked at how cruel she can be as Violet, so much so that when the points come in the movie, in which we could feel bad for her, we can't. She's that terrible a person. 

Roberts plays the dominant sister who verbally and physically confronts Violet. There's nothing really extraordinary about her performance, other than the fact she isn't smiling all the through, as usual. 

The cast is like an all-star generational gathering, with Streep, Roberts, Lewis and Abigail Breslin representing past eras and the future of leading women. On the male side of the cast, there is equal talent with Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor, Dermot Mulroney and Benedict Cumberbatch. 

For all of these reasons to be attracted to seeing the film, there are just as many to want to avoid it. You know from the moment Streep steps on to the screen that bad things are going to happen. Deep down you want to keep watching, in the hope that something good, or some resolution will occur to make it all worthwhile. As the credits roll, you are still waiting for these moments. 

I can't recommend this one. It's too sad, too loud, has too little humor for even a family drama and overall, it completely lacks heart. I'd avoid “August: Osage County” and may avoid Oklahoma from now on as well.