NOPE – What do you get when you take the self-indulgent demons of Eugene O’Neill, the prosaic Southern charm of Horton Foote, a half a dozen Oscar winners, and a carton of Marlboro Lights and throw them into a blender?
August: Osage County.
Adapted from her celebrated play, Tracy Letts’ film version is over-written, over-directed, over-edited, and mostly over-acted.
A film like August: Osage County really makes you appreciate filmmakers like Wes Anderson and Alexander Payne. Writer-directors who know their material so well that they let it breathe. Then, as an audience you either like the sensibilities of the storyteller or you don’t.
But either way you know you’re in good hands.
Not so much here.
The warning signs come early and often that this is gonna be a very bumpy ride.
Director John Wells somehow managed to make Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts about as watchable as two women arguing over feminine hygiene at the table next to you at Starbucks. The word “shrill” doesn’t come close.
I like a good dysfunctional family drama as much as the next hack.
If I want it below the belt honest, gimme Thomas Vinterberg’s Celebration.
If I want it sentimental and poetic, gimme Lasse Hallstrom’s What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.
Hell, I can even appreciate the knock down, drag out medicated antics of O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night (directed by Sidney Lumet).
But this film was shot and cut like Steel Magnolias with the mouth of Kevin Smith (“Eat the fish, bitch!”) and the subtlety of the worst ham-handed Clint Eastwood film (see Million Dollar Baby and/or Mystic River).
I did not buy one relationship in August: Osage County.
I’m not sure whose story it was; or whether or not I was supposed to be rooting for anything or anyone.
Surely it wasn’t just a social commentary on plain folk and their back woods ways?
Hard to anchor a narrative on a theme as thin as…”be nice or you’ll end up alone.”
Or…”incest is bad.”
Too bad. Lotta talent involved. Maybe too much.
And what is Benedict Cumberbatch doing in this film? Was Russell Brand not available?