"August: Osage County" opens with Beverly Weston discussing his wife's health and demeanor with a young Native American woman he has hired. He quotes T.S. Eliot and Meryl Streep, playing his wife, tears her way onto the screen and establishes her unlikable, racist, pill-happy character with some boorish, slurred lines of dialogue.
By the time the opening credits ran both my wife and I agreed we were breathless. And that didn't change. The power of the language, the sheer beauty of this opening scene is carried throughout this incredible film, adapted from the play by Tracy Letts and directed by John Wells.
Witty lines of pain cloaked in heavy, gorgeous language roll off of Julia Robert's tongue. The characters are so whole, so believable, that every single one of them is someone you know. And yet it's hard to admit you know any one of them because they are so extreme, so flawed. Every character is played by a familiar face but this star-studded movie truly allows its familiar celebrities to show their craft. They are given an opportunity to reach for their acting roots and each one rises to that opportunity.
The energy and flow of this movie repeatedly brought Faulkner to mind, as I watched Meryl Streep in what I could only see as the drug-addled version of Addie Bundren tottering and hollering her way across the screen. Every member of this family, from the three daughters, to the aunts, uncles and one new fiance has their moment to shine, and their moment with mud on their face. It is a study of family, culture, the roots of bullying and an exposure of true strength.
All of that being said, let me warn you. If you are the kind of person who likes plot holes, likes to fill in the gaps and figure out the conclusions on your own. If you like a story that leaves you without any concrete answers, this is your story. If, however, you like neat, tidy, tied up with a ribbon, package endings... skip this one.
I, however, only wish I had watched it sooner. And I can't wait to watch it again.