Thursday, January 9, 2014

Review: August: Osage County

Release date: December 25, 2013 (January 10, 2014 in DC area)
Running time: 121 minutes
Starring: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor, Margo Martindale
Who to see it with: Someone with a dysfunctional family, or who wants to see some spectacular acting.


Dysfunctional families have been done before in movies. However, it is rarely done as genuinely as in August: Osage County. The movie doesn't just do a dysfunctional family, the movie builds one from scratch, adding layer after wonderful, terrible layer to this situation. Each member of the Weston family has their own quirks, phobias, and conditions, but it doesn't feel contrived in this movie, it feels like a natural extension to a terribly messed up family. Each new revelation is fitting to the characters and situation that this family is living under; and as they build, the characters grow gradually and naturally. 

As mentioned above, the characters are all dysfunctional and feel like a natural cast of differently messed up people. None of the family members are the same, or are even similar, and their growth throughout the film is wonderful. And those characters are brought to life by some truly amazing acting. Rarely do you watch a movie where every actor gives such a natural and amazing performance for so complex a character; each one could be nominated for their own respective best actor/actress category. And the writing is also great. Probably because the movie was originally a play, the dialog is sharp and economical while still providing plenty of context for the viewers to follow along. It doesn't feel like any lines are throw away lines, each one is placed for the benefit of the audience.

This care also translates into the overall movie. The film has a relatively simple setup, with most of it taking place in the old family house with a small group of characters. And yet, there is plenty for the audience to see, plenty of new situations and locations for the audience to experience. The dinner scene is probably one of my favorite scenes in any movie, simply because it was a simple setup that highlights how great the characters and writing are. There really isn't much to criticize about August: Osage County. It's a decidedly dark movie, much darker than any of the trailers let on, but it's an experience that is worth having. The performances, the characters, everything about it feels genuine and lovingly crafted. 

Watch it.

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