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article imageReview: ‘August: Osage County’ is a sophisticated breakdown Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Jan 11, 2014 in Entertainment
In ‘August: Osage County,’ a family returns to the Oklahoma home in which they grew up to deal with a crisis and confront their dysfunctional mother.
Not since Terms of Endearment has mother-daughter relationships been so volatile and co-dependent. August: Osage County shares several traits with the 30-year-old film, but the all-star cast and exponentially complex storyline ranks it well above its predecessor. Director John Well’s sophomore outing occurs almost entirely at the family’s home, which is built on a foundation of secrets and misery.
When a crisis descends upon the Weston home, Violet (Meryl Streep) cries out for her daughters — or at least one of them — to help her through this difficult time. Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) was the one that stayed behind when her sisters escaped, but her devotion is little appreciated or acknowledged. Karen (Juliette Lewis) is the family screw-up, leaving her and her new beau (Dermot Mulroney) to be ignored at the dinner table. Barbara (Julia Roberts) is the most responsible, returning to pick up the pieces of her prescription-addicted mother. With the summer’s heat already putting everyone on edge, this gathering will be far from congenial.
The punches never stop coming in this picture. Whether it’s Violet spewing poison at her children or a deep family secret being unburied, they just keep exchanging one bad turn for another. Opening on the unhappily married couple, Violet does not even shield strangers from her venom as she walks in on her husband (Sam Shepard) acquainting a new caregiver with their situation. She pops one pill after another, claiming to be attempting to control cancer-related pain but generally just feeding her habit. And when she sets out one day looking for a fight, Barbara gives her one — literally.
Unsurprisingly, Streep is exceptional in this picture. She is (emotionally) uglier than ever, portraying a deep-seated animosity that contaminates all of her relationships. Her bitter remarks are so toxic, her performance is reminiscent of Bette Davis’ in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Roberts is equally up to the task to shed her “America’s sweetheart” label to play the daughter at her wit’s end, slowly unraveling as life overwhelms her with a barrage of problems. Everyone is absolutely suited to their roles, from Lewis’ flighty behaviour to Margo Martindale’s severe attitude towards her son to Benedict Cumberbatch’s inhibited personality. The awards nominations are well-deserved and multiplying
In two hours, the Westons go to Hell but they show the path back is not an easy one. There’s no pretty bow to tie everything up in the end as characters’ worries will continue to somewhat trouble viewers even after the film is finished.
Director: John Wells
Starring: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts and Chris Cooper
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