Review: August Osage County

Audrey Sebatindira 15 February 2014

I’ll start by getting the obvious out of the way: to say that Meryl Streep was on form in her portrayal of bitter and poisonous matriarch Violet Weston in August: Osage County would be a vast and offensive understatement. Only she could, in a cast so brimming with talent, give a performance that was so painful to watch, evoking copious amounts of horror and pity from the audience.

The film, begins with the disappearance and subsequent (apparent) suicide of Violet’s husband, and centres on the family gathering for his funeral, complete with revelations of terrible family secrets and plenty of screaming matches. Julia Roberts, in her role as Barbara, Violet’s bitter eldest daughter, does a particularly good job of matching Streep’s intensity, playing the role of a woman slowly realising that she is becoming her own, toxic mother with impressive subtlety. And credit should also be given to Julianne Nicholson and Juliette Lewis for equally heart-breaking performancesas her younger sisters.

The film throws you from one emotional extreme to another. One moment bursting with caustic hilarity, the next sombre and, often, devastating. Occasionally the two were melded into the same scene, as was the case in the 25 minute post-funeral feast where Streep, mistaking cruelty for honesty, rips each of her family members (and there are quite a few) to shreds. You’re left literally not knowing whether to laugh or cry, a feeling you never quite shake off throughout the course of the film as you realise, despite the misleading trailer, that there is little comedy in the plot.

Far from a heart-warming tale of family dysfunction overcome by shared grief, the film ends as it begins: melancholy and discomforting. Yet Lett’s underlying message about family dynamics, love lost (or stolen), and how the effects of loveless parenting can send ripples through generations is one worth experiencing.

9/10

For Fans Off…

The Iron Lady

Little Miss Sunshine

Steel Magnolias