Wednesday, January 8, 2014

August: Osage County

If you look at a map and look for the middle of America, you will arrive at Osage County. Kansas is in the dead centre of the United States of America and Osage County is about as middle of the States as you can get. Arrive in California, drive through Nevada, Utah and Colorado and cross most of the state of Kansas, cross the dead flat, head ridden plains and you arrive there. One of the characters in the movie asks why the hell anybody would stop and plant roots there, it really is the middle of nowhere, a hot, dry, flat godforsaken place with a feeling of menace.

Which is where this film takes off from, and eventually leaves.

If you like your comedy black, deep and complex, this is your film. If you want to see some of the better performances that you’re going to see this year, this too, is probably going to be your cup of tea.

As I hadn’t seen the stage production, I went in blind. A family comedy/drama about the grown up kids coming back home. What the ads don’t tell you is why the family have got together, or what has gone on in the past to make this educated, middle class family of strong women and befuddled men the way they are.

I walked way feeling like I’d done seven rounds with a boxing trainer – in the best possible way. A fulfilling, at times harrowing film, looking at families, secrets and loss.

You get the feeling that the screenwriter, who's was also the playwright, is working out of love. The cast couldn't be better picked. Meryl Streep as the drug-addled mother, Sam Shepard, cast to type as the lugubrious father. Julia Roberts, fish-lips and all, the sulky older daughter, Julianne Nicholson as the plain middle daughter who stayed behind and Juliette Lewis, as the youngest daughter. I was rather enamored with Benedict Cumberbatch and Chris Cooper as the uncle and cousin figures. Dermot Mulroney and Juliette Lewis round out the ragtag bunch - the former wonderful as the sleazy fiance who does not fit in t all. 

I found the film riveting from the moment the movie started until the closing credits. Almost all of the film is centred around the family home and the goings on within the family, sometimes poignant, sometimes harrowing, sometimes funny,

Happy to bet that Meryl Streep will get another Oscar gong for her role as the family matriarch. Julia Roberts tosses the fluff and is excellent as well. Another standout to me was Misty Upham in the role of Joanna the nurse/housekeeper, keeping silent witness to the pain in the household.

What is it they say about families? Can't shoot them. Can't bury them behind the garden shed. This wonderfully observant film will make you realise that your own family isn't that bad.

My only slight criticism of the film as that as it's been adapted from a play, it has a bit of a stunted three act feel in a couple of places. The transitions could have been a little smoother. Other than this minor point, I loved this poignant, harrowing, funny ride of a family dramedy.

Highly recommended if you're like your comedy darker than Nugget boot polish.

1 comment:

Jackie K said...

I have to admit this film doesn't grab me. I like dark stuff, but this seems a little too "The Family Stone" for me. Good talent in it though.