August: Osage County

MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: -1

Content: -4

Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis, Margo Martindale, Sam Shepard. Comedy/drama. Written by Tracy Letts. Directed by John Wells.

FILM SYNOPSIS: A family clan gathers at their Oklahoma homestead when dad has gone missing and mother is slipping further into some sort of dementia due to years of prescription drugs. One argument leads to another.

PREVIEW REVIEW: Critics are eating this film up with a spoon due to the performances. It’s like they’ve never seen good acting before, and they’re willing to put up with the 130 minutes of badgering, contention and verbal hostility just to watch Streep and Roberts emote.

Due to the cast and the fact that the film is an adaptation of a Pulitzer Prize-winning play, I was excited to see it. But having gone into it blind, I was unaware of the endless amount of coarse, obscene and profane language that comprised most of the dialogue. Quickly, I realized that I was in for a sensory-pummeling theatrical experience. We’re presented with the kind of dysfunctional family one might find inhabiting a Tennessee Williams play, only amped up with enough invective exclamation to cause a sailor’s ears to bleed. By film’s end, I found little to praise concerning this tale of this southern gothic family. I was amazed at how such excessive family discontent can inspire secular critics and what movie audiences are now willing to endure in the name of entertainment.

Meryl Streep, in my opinion, is the greatest film actress, ever. Chameleon-like, Ms. Streep can go effortlessly from mild-mannered to demonic, depending on the script. Here, she’s part Mother Macbeth, part Miranda Priestly, part Cujo. She’s absolutely wicked as this venomous Medusa of a matriarch, making Virginia Woolf’s Martha look positively Pollyanna. Because the character is so lacking in humanity, a sad portrait of a woman who can never truly forgive past wrongs, the performance must be pronounced as dispiriting. She’s not someone you learn spiritual truths from. And because she’s so unlikable, Streep’s creation is not a character you want to revisit.

The 130-minute production contains suicide, incest, statutory rape, drug and alcohol abuse, pot smoking, marital infidelity, and bitterness handed down from generation to generation. You’ve just spent over two hours with a crude bunch that seems to have no moral compass. One might call them trailer trash, but that would be an insult to banjo-playing mountain folk.

It’s an ensemble piece wherein every thespian gets his or her screen time to demonstrate hysterical theatrics. And just in case you didn’t know by now, the court jesters of Hollywoodland can, do and love to swear. Lord, there hasn’t been this much obscenity screamed since the landing on Iwo Jima. But the writer doesn’t just settle with cussin’ and cursin.’ He also includes crudity, as in the scene where the three sisters discuss their mother’s vagina, in blush-producing descriptive detail.

Whatever the positive message may be in this overkill of a melodrama, it’s been eclipsed by deleterious excesses.

DVD Alternative: Trip to Bountiful. Geraldine Page won an Oscar for her role in this simple but well-told tale of a discontented widow who decides to make a last pilgrimage to her childhood home. The beautiful rendition of Softly and Tenderly by Christian performer Cynthia Clawson is worth the rental price. PG (contains a couple of expletives).

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
The Weinstein Company

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: Crude sexual conversations and references to body parts.

Obscene Language: Around 20 uses of the f-word, 20 of the s-word and an equal amount of other obscenities.

Profanity: Around 30 uses of God’s name, followed by a curse; Jesus’ name is also abused by these people, over and over.

Violence: Most of the violence is in the form of verbal abuse.

Sex: Sex is discussed; incest is implied

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: The lead is addicted to pain medication; a teenager discusses her use of pot; smoking and drinking throughout.

Other: None

Running Time: 130 minutes
Intended Audience: Adults

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