BY LAUREN NISBET
I was not expecting to like August: Osage County. If I’m being completely honest, I really only went to see it because I heard it got a lot of attention at TIFF and it seems to have a pretty stacked cast. Based on the previews, the concept seemed weak and boring, and I couldn’t really see much point. I now consider myself proved decidedly wrong.
Brought together by a family crisis, the Weston sisters return to their family home in Oklahoma to deal with the consequences and reconnect with their dysfunctional mother and quirky relatives.
You can tell right away that the film was adapted from a play–the dialogue is just too good. Movies that are written to be movies have the luxury of hiding behind impressive locations and flashy action sequences–they can jump from place to place and throw in sex and violence to distract the audience from writing that usually isn’t great. Plays don’t have that luxury–they usually stick to one place and the main action is always the conversation. The majority of this movie consists of ten people sitting around a dinner table talking to each other. There aren’t any quick cut-aways to something else going on; you just get to listen in on the family drama, and somehow, in a world where audiences are used to receiving constant stimulation from multiple screens at any given moment, this dinner table is more than enough to keep us entertained.
There are two things that make this movie great: the story and the casting. The play was written and adapted for the screen by Tracey Letts, who has created characters and relationships that are unbelievably entertaining and heartbreakingly genuine. From the drunk poet patriarch to the pill-popping mother who plays favourites with her three daughters to the slightly ridiculous but loveable aunt to the clueless but caring uncle to the “screw-up” cousin, it’s a family we’re familiar with, dealing with a slightly shocking amount of drama, and a ton of juicy secrets. I love the three stereotypical sisters: the “favourite” oldest daughter, the mousy middle child and the flaky youngest who has been shielded all her life and as a result still doesn’t quite seem to “get it”. It’s a great ensemble.
And everyone chosen to act in this movie was an absolutely perfect choice. If I had read these characters on a page I think I would have chosen these exact actors to play them in my head. It is so much fun to hate Meryl Streep in this movie–she plays the part perfectly. Same goes for Julia Roberts. And if I had to pick a sleazy fiancé out of a lineup, it would absolutely be Dermot Mulroney. Everyone just captures the essence of their character so well. It’s a beautiful thing to watch.
It’s funny, surprising, cringe-worthy, embarrassing, endearing and just a genuinely good, well-acted story. If you’re craving action and adventure this one might miss the mark, but if you want something clever and unique, this movie is definitely worth watching.
A media studies grad and pop culture junkie currently navigating the strange and mysterious world of corporate communications, Lauren spends most of her time buried under an ever-growing pile of TBR novels. Based in Toronto, she can be found at the local theatre every Tuesday for cheap movie night. Follow her on Twitter @laurenxnisbet