"August: Osage County" Movie Review: 2 Stars
by Michael Phillips
Over and over, the negative reviews of "August: Osage County" have pulled variations on a sad theme, with various New York- and LA-based critics wrestling with the film without having seen, or read, the Tracy Letts play that came before it.
Paraphrased, the theme goes like this: "Well, at least now I don't have to see the play. The movie doesn't work for me. Why would I ever take time to see the original?"
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And this is why weak, misdirected film versions of worthy stage projects cause more harm than the average so-so film.
There are things to enjoy in "August: Osage County," mainly around the edges. But there's a serious case
of miscasting at the center. I'm not talking about Meryl Streep as Violet, the (literally) cancerous, vicious, entertainingly
I'm not talking about Roberts, either, though in the shrieking smack downs between her character and Streep's, all Streep has to do to maintain domination of a scene is look at her. Sideways. Once. With her eyes closed Streep could stare down a scene partner and make her blink.
The miscasting, rather, is all about director
Onstage, in the rip-roaring but meticulously controlled
Coming off his plays "Killer Joe," "Bug" and "Man From Nebraska," Letts seized his chance to write a big, juicy showcase for his Steppenwolf colleagues.
The result was a little like
"August: Osage County" felt old-fashioned in the right way and newfangled in the right way, and it didn't play like a series of derivations yanked out of American standards. It was its own thing, and it traveled well, especially in Shapiro's staging. And then
Letts' screen adaptation of "August: Osage County" shaves about 45 minutes of material. The main change is the foregrounding of the Roberts character, whose marriage to her husband (a bland
The script does a pretty shrewd job of retaining the peaks and valleys of the play within an inevitably overstuffed two-hour time frame and a mess of characters to accommodate.
But the movie never really gets going. Wells treats every conversation, each new encounter, as a separate, dutifully filmed scene unto itself, and after a while you start thinking impossible thoughts about directors long gone. What might've
The actors do what they can.
See the play sometime. It cooks; the movie's more of a microwave reheat.
MPAA rating: R (for language, including sexual references, and for drug material), Running time: 1:59.
"August: Osage County" Movie Trailer
"August: Osage County" tells the dark and deeply touching story of the strong-willed women of the Weston family, whose lives have diverged until a family crisis brings them back to the Midwest house they grew up in, and to the dysfunctional woman who raised them