August: Osage County

“I usually approach films adapted from stage (musical or straight play) with a mix of curious apprehension. I’m usually excited for the film to exist, either because it’s a work I enjoy and want to see it preserved on film, or because it’s one that I’m familiar with but haven’t been able to see yet, and this is my opportunity. But at the same time, they don’t always translate well. The two live in different worlds sometimes. And while it makes sense on several levels for a play/musical to have a limited number of spaces and locations, it can feel claustrophobic on screen. And endless monologues and conversations that are right at home on stage can feel prolonged on film (even if they’re word for word matches). My initial feelings towards August: Osage County was that this is an acclaimed play that I was excited to see for the first time (in one form or another), and that some of the names attached to it (starting with Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts) would ensure that this was the best it could possibly be, whatever that ended up being.

Well, it sort of lived up to every expectation good and bad. The good, by far, was the cast. Meryl Streep shows us once again why she’s the best, completing losing herself in a character that’s so different from any of the other masterful performances we’ve seen from her. Word on the street is that she was reluctant to take on the role because she feared having to become such a negative person. But throughout the whole thing, I could see the slightest twinkle in her eye enjoying taking such command of the screen. Surprisingly, this was the first time she has collaborated with Roberts (who cried the first time she announced she’d be getting to work with someone she admired so greatly). I want to see more films with the two of them together. Streep’s Violet may have been the centerpiece, but Roberts’ Barbara was the anchor. Such a strong and tenacious performance.

I could keep gushing for a long time about some of the other players: Ewan McGregor, Margo Martindale, Juliette Lewis, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliannae Nicholson. Each one outstanding in their own way, in what was truly one of the best assembled casts you could ever possibly ask for.

While the cast certainly exceeded expectations, the “”play-ness”” of it was about where I expected too. It did feel confined, and much of the plot just sort of plodded along slowly. Theatre audiences are more forgiving (and expectant) of such things, but movies are expected to go go go. But unless you’re completely reworking something, it’s a hurdle that won’t be easily overcome. But the cast did make it worthwhile, and I’m happy to add this to the list of plays that I now am more familiar with than just in name.

August: Osage County – \m/ \m/ \m/

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