Monday, March 24, 2014

AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY

Meryl Streep, Margo Martindale, Julia Roberts, 
Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Sam Shepard,
Julianne Nicholson, Dermot Mulroney, Juliette Lewis, 
Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch

"Misery Loves Family"


The only thing I believe I have in common with this film is the scorching hot weather that permeates during the unfolding of this heavy handed drama about a dysfunctional family. I could commiserate with the characters as they were sweating from the intense heat and humidity of an Oklahoma summer.

The film is based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning Tracy Letts’ play and is an insightful experience, funny with all the absurdity of life, sad with its irreversible drive towards death.

It is the month of August, the Weston family is grieving as they mourn the sudden death of its patriarch Beverly Weston (Sam Shepard) through an apparent suicide.

The Weston family is led by his widow Violet (Meryl Streep), an over medicated, foul mouthed, heavy drinker who is also battling mouth cancer.  Her estranged daughters come home, each of them carrying their own emotional baggage. As they all gather for the funeral, long buried and hidden secrets are revealed and explosively expose their vulnerability and frailty as a family as well as individuals.

Since it is a play, most of the scenes are set in one location - the ancestral home. But it also incorporates the local landscapes of the real Osage County in northern Oklahoma.  Wide, open spaces that bear silent witness to the loud, in-your-face melodramatic moments at the Weston household composed mostly of strong willed women.

The storyline is quite dark and intense, and to a certain extent really tragic. It is mostly dialogue driven and it really helps that the lines are delivered by a cast of well trained actresses.

Meryl Streep is highly overbearing as Violet but at the same time, you feel her 'pain'. And even if we refuse to acknowledge it, we somehow understand why she is so bitter. Julia Roberts as the eldest daughter Barbara is in one of her most unglamorous roles - without any make up, she is able to relay her antagonistic attitude quite brilliantly.  For me, Margo Martindale was quite a revelation as the highly judgmental Mattie Fae, the sister of Violet.  She was basically the 'string' that held all the characters together.  Each of them fully immersing themselves in their roles with aplomb.

Most of the time, it is quite hard to watch as people are very mean to each other. Spewing vitriol, being very critical and using demeaning words like it was a natural thing to constantly dampen other people's feelings without any tinge of remorse.

People being harsh to their own flesh and blood is a highly foreign concept for me. Family should always come first and be treated with much deserved respect irregardless of our flaws and weaknesses as individuals.

The movie is also quite compelling to absorb as towards the end ... you sense that self awareness, redemption and remorse is actually possible. Never mind that there is such a tiny window for it to creep in. The fact remains that there is still a very small glimmer of hope even for such torn and conflicted characters.

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