UK Release:January 24th 2014
Based on an award winning stage play back in 2008, the Weinstein/Smokehouse co-production ‘AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY’ was one of this year’s most prominent appearing in Oscar category films. Directed by John Wells (‘The Company Men’), the film has one of the better assembled casts of recent times of Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis, Dermot Mulroney, Julianne Nicholson and Sam Shephard. Tracy Letts adapted her own stage play for this film.
What ‘August: Osage County’ does very well is that it doesn’t feel like a stage play, but with a larger set and cameras. Many adaptations of stage plays in the past can fall into the trap off feeling very un-occupying on screen, this is thanks to the fact that stage writing and screen writing are two very different forms. The issue you have here though, is that the director of John Wells doesn’t seem to go and look into the deep ideas about religion and methodology which the film discuses several times, evening opening with a sequence lead by Sam Shephard. This is a shame as it is evident you certainly see metaphors in the set design, and Mise-en-Sans, but it doesn’t seem to amount to anything, which was probably something which held the film back from winning any real awards.
Performance wise everyone is universally terrific, everyone has some sort of storyline (or more hidden past) to work with, even if it very melodrama, and could give soap writers a year worth of storylines. Meryl Streep is wonderful as the drugged up mother and so is Julia Roberts as her daughter (both of them work of one and other perfectly), the film (while takes a little time to get going) does have a wonder dinner set piece as well which does lass black comedy to the drama. It is also nice to see a film where the sisters (Roberts, Lewis and Nicholson) squabble among one and other, as well.
Does is surprise me this film didn’t win anything? No, not at all.
However this should not be taken away as this is a perfectly decent film. It is clear that the Weinstein brothers were probably putting their efforts into winning some Oscar’s for this (they are well documented in Hollywood in being the best to have campaign for you/or a project for Oscar contention), since this the only film from them this past awards season. What did make me laugh though is during the end credit sequence, it doesn’t just do the whole title-card-come-up-thing all award campaigning films do (so voters remember the name of the film), it also presents other major information highlighting not just the actors, but also the credits song from Kings of Leon (basically to say we want nominations in every category going, including ‘Best Original Song’).