August: Osage County, written by Tracy Letts and based on his play of the same name, is never shallow. It's one setting, melodramatic histrionics and frequent 'family drama' cliches may turn some people off but if you want to see, in particular, some of America's greatest actresses at work, this is the film to see.
Everyone knows Meryl Streep can do this stuff in her sleep but she is still mesmerising and without a shred of vanity in her portrayal of the brutally honest and abusive matriarch of a family full of fuck ups.
Her name might not be on the lips in every household but you'd have to have been living under a filmic rock if you weren't aware of the subtle brilliance of Margo Martindale and in August, she doesn't disappoint.
The big surprise, for me at least, here was Julia Roberts. Her performance is mindbogglingly good. Leaving her rom-com and Oceans Eleven cameoing far behind her, she delivers a nuanced, out-of-charcter turn that will have you captivated from the moment she steps into shot.
Nobody else in the cast gets quite as flashier moments as the three main women but everyone else holds their own, even with less to do. Juliette Lewis is a little one note as always but it works here, for this role. The casting of Julianne Nicholson is a little curious, not because she isn't marvellous but because she seems young for the character, judging by the script and the story. Also while the big reveal from her subplot defines the third act of the film, it's one of the main plotting points that felt overly contrived and a little unfair.
That being said, these are only minor quibbles in what is an excellently retold and restaged play.
Dramas, like any other genre or style of film, have their cliches and their requirements. You have to like the trappings of 'the melodrama' to truly appreciate August: Osage County, just like you'd need to appreciate scary music, blood and guts and masked killers if you went to see a slasher film. Critics who have reviewed this poorly, simply don't seem to like dramas but then "professional" critics these days seem to permanently have their head rammed up their own arses, more of the than not.
So, if you DO like ensemble kitchen-sink dramas, this is the one to see this season.
8 out of 10