Tracey Letts’ play August: Osage County was a sprawling, Eugene O’Neill-esque slab of all-American dysfunctionality that played like gangbusters on the stage. It’s just about the last thing that you would want to see Harvey Weinstein and a pack of Oscar-festooned actors get their hands on; but somehow the truncated film adaptation plays pretty smartly. It opens up the material without lessening too much of the story’s darker impact. Also, Julia Roberts shows up in a Meryl Streep movie and actually leaves a stronger impression.
August: Osage County opened on Christmas Day, go find it! My review is at Film Racket:
This wasn’t supposed to happen. August: Osage County features Meryl Streep lording it over a fractious family as a red-eyed, pill-popping, malicious, cancer-stricken, Eric Clapton-loving matriarch with a black wig that looks a small dog flopped onto her head. But somehow Julia Roberts ends up being the one who sticks with you. She doesn’t do it by trying to reinvent herself. This character is in the same ballpark with the other flinty types Roberts has specialized in over the years. But what makes her stand out from the lesser films that Roberts has wasted most of her time on is her desire to push the limits of unlikeability. During an explosive family dinner scene that violently jerks into a half-thought-out intervention, Barbara Weston (Roberts) turns on her suddenly terrified mother Violet (Streep) like an unleashed animal, bellowing at her and everyone else within a half-mile radius, “I’m in charge now.” It’s more an admission of doom than triumphant declaration…
Here’s the trailer, which makes the film look like some sassy Southern heartwarmer that Roberts would have starred in back in 1996: