August: Osage County movie poster
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August: Osage County
August: Osage County movie poster

August: Osage County Movie Review

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Meryl Streep is a bitch. Like, super bitch. And she embraces it wholeheartedly in the fiercely entertaining August: Osage County, one of the funniest depressing movies – or one of the most depressing comedies – to ever hit the silver screen. Oh, and the bitch gives another Oscar-winning performance.

Streep plays Violet, the cancer riddled, drug addicted and cantankerous matriarch of the Weston family, who has been brought together by the sudden disappearance of her husband (Sam Shepard). As wicked as she is crazy, Violet brings out the very worst in people, especially her daughters (Julia Roberts, Julianne Nicholson and Juliette Lewis), and tensions build to explosive levels as they deal with grief and other personal issues in their old Oklahoma house.

Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor, Margo Martindale, Dermot Mulroney, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch and Misty Upham round out what can only be described as one of the most impressive ensemble casts in years.

Each cast member is deliciously entertaining in their own right, but it’s a Streep and Roberts show all the way. Just when you think the record-breaking actress can’t top herself, she goes ahead and does it again, delivering one of the best performances of her career and quite possibly the best of the year. Her portrayal of Violet is simultaneously evil and accessible (in an odd, f**ked up kind of way); Streep plays the villain well, but in the end it’s impossible not to feel for her at some level. Kind of.

Roberts also is at her very best here, and that’s not an overstatement. She owns her character, easily one of the grittiest of her storied career.

Beyond the acting, August: Osage County is strangely alluring, even intoxicating at times. It’s powerful, funny and when it goes for the throat (I’m thinking of a certain dinner scene), it really goes for the throat.

The movie isn’t for everyone. As funny as it is at times, it is utterly depressing. The family members loathe each other, and occasionally their blinding bitterness becomes a bit much. Screenwriter Tracy Letts, who adapted his own Pulitzer Prize-winning play, layers on the hardship a bit strong at times, although in the moment every turn was pretty damn entertaining.

August: Osage County will be a bit too dark for some people, but it is a superbly acted, sharply written and powerful drama-comedy that could earn Meryl Streep yet another gold statue.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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